Canadian Commandos – JTF 2

by MaxPower

When someone says the phrase – Canadian military forces – what comes to mind? Peacekeeping maybe, understaffed and under-quiped possibly, super secret counter terrorist forces – definitely not. Yet that stereotypical view of Canada as an international boyscout enables Canada to have a highly effective and highly secretive counter terrorist force that ranks among the US Delta Forces, Rangers, British SAS and the Italian Carabinieri’s GIS in combat effectiveness.

That force is Joint Task Force 2 – JTF 2. Officially it exists, you can find their application form on the Canadian Department of Defence website. Their mission is ‘to be ready to respond as a force of last resort to terrorist events or major disturbances of the peace affecting national security’. It was created in April 1993 as the Canadian Army took over counter terrorist duties from the RCMP. It is based outside Ottawa. Yet try to get any information on its size, operational duties, history, operational weapons or tactics and the government clams up. So much so that even though the creation and existence of this group is a readily known by the national media and other international sources (example: Janes) and that the government doesn’t ‘hide’ it, nothing of JTF’s history or operational activities are confirmed by the Canadian government. Yet they continue to make statements confirming its existence. Major Rick Jones was quoted in the Canadian press in 1995 as saying ‘We don’t talk about it because we are not going to tip our hand to the unit’s capabilities, those the unit is designed to counter could use that kind of information’.

It is apparently made up of between 200 and 350 soldiers, gleaned from the best possible recruits and all volunteers, commanded by a Colonel. They are trained in the Canadian arctic and mountain regions, giving them a highly specialized niche in which to practice counter terrorist techniques on the world stage.

What activities have they been attributed to in the past? They have been deployed in a number of instances inside Canada for security purposes. When I say deployed I mean as a covert force, backing up visible RCMP and police units, they hardly patrol rooftops decked out in counter terrorist kit. Reports – obviously unconfirmed – have JTF 2 being used in the Commonwealth Games in Victoria in 1994, deployed in Bosnia in 1995 to rescue Canadian peacekeeping troops taken hostage by Serbian forces. Those same troops were reported captured then reported safe without sufficient explanation on the means. JTF 2 also was part of the G-7 meeting in Halifax in 1995 and recently in 2001 in Quebec City for the meeting of the Americas. Internationally, there have been reports of JTF 2 being on the ground in Kosovo as part of the NATO airstrikes. Their mission was most likely to be on the ground illuminating targets with lasers to help missile guidance launched from Canadian CF-18’s (and possibly other NATO forces) flying out of Northern Italy.

With the recent tragedies in the United States, counter terrorist forces the world over have been mobilized. There have been reports in the UK of the British SAS already on the ground in Afghanistan aiding the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. Could the Canadian JTF 2 be on the ground as well? I should think it is possible if not probable. Consider – in the past 8 years, JTF 2 has not been actively deployed according to the Canadian government. This I consider highly unlikely when looking at the defence budget for the Canadian military, I doubt that they would hang onto a 300 strong unit which hasn’t done anything for 8 years. In fact in the DND White Paper JTF 2 was labelled as having priority 1 funding (not less than 95%) under the title of ‘Selected High Readiness Forces’. Further to that, JTF 2 is also classified by the DND as Manning Priority 1 (not less than 100%) under ‘Deployed forces, international commitments outside Canada and selected high readiness units’. This is a lot of priority placed on a unit that has not been officially deployed in almost a decade and only engages in training exercises.

So even though the Canadian government continually denies any military involvement in the US ‘War on Terrorism’ and commitment of JTF 2 in particular, it seems to me highly unlikely that both of these are completely true. The aforementioned niche of JTF 2 is mountain and combat in desolate non-built up areas, I can’t think of words the better describe Northern Afghanistan. US Special Forces practice and train for combat in highly built up areas such as cities, while the UK SAS have a history of training in South East Asian jungles, neither of which is explicitly the case in Afghanistan.

Various press articles from US, Canadian and UK news agencies indicate some strange goings on with respect to Canadian military involvement. When Chretien met Bush in Washington on Monday Sept 24th ,two weeks after the tragedy in New York, reports were that Bush wanted specific Canadian military assistance and that it was going to be high on their discussion list, but when Chretien emerges and speaks to the media, he denies that military assistance from the US was even requested. This had pundits in the national Canadian papers as postulating that perhaps we don’t have anything the US wants or needs. Possibly, yet what better cover for counter terrorist black ops than a country with an international reputation like Canada as a peacekeeping nation coupled with an underutilized underfunded conventional army. There must be in all things that involve covert military activities since the Vietnam war – plausible deniability. Something that may be true must be able to be plausibly denied on the basis of what information is public. That there is a super secret Canadian counter-terrorist force on the ground in a foreign nation assisting rebels to take over a country and capture a wanted international murderer is extremely implausible on the surface. Yet is it actually?

Sometimes the best way to keep something secret is to hide it in plain view.

  • Canadian Commandos – JTF 2
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on October 1st, 2001
Various publicly available news releases from international sources. Defence Planning Guidance 2001

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