Canada’s Libya Mission: Worth the Cost?

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Some 650 Canadian military personnel are involved in the mission in Libya. (Photo: Andrew Hildebrand)
Some 650 Canadian military personnel are involved in the mission in Libya. (Photo: Andrew Hildebrand)

WORLD

  • CDN$26 million spent on Canada’s military mission in Libya to June 2011
  • Budget predicted to hit CDN$60 million if mission extends to September 2011
  • Allied countries moving to transfer funds to Libya’s Transitional National Council

In June, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay revealed that Canada had spent CDN$26 million on its military mission in Libya, and that this amount could balloon to $60 million by September.

According to the CBC, these funds paid for: two CP-140 Aurora patrol planes, six CF–8 fighter jets, the HMCS Vancouver (a multi-purpose warship including a CH-124 Sea King helicopter meant to patrol for danger), over 400 laser-guided bombs from March-June 2 and 650 Canadian Forces personnel.

The projected $60 million price tag could become reality, as the House of Commons “voted overwhelmingly” to extend the mission by another three-and-a-half months on June 14.

8 NATO Members Participating

Canada is one of the original eight NATO members out of the total 28-nation alliance participating in the air strikes in Libya, including the US, Britain, France, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and, until August 2, Norway.

Canada is not the only heavy contributor. Among the other nations, the US has contributed three B2 stealth bombers, 11 warships and a total of 16 F-15 and F-16 fighters. France contributed 40 aircraft and the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, while Spain, Denmark and Belgium have each contributed at least six fighter jets, reports the CBC.

Further, the Financial Times alleges that the US has spent USD$664 million in Libya as of mid-May.

The Libya mission is NATO’s response to the pro-democracy demonstrations turned civil war, which began on February 18 to force Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi out after four decades of power. In February, the UN implemented an arms embargo – no sale, supply or transfer of arms as well as a freezing of Libyan assets worldwide.

No-Fly Zone Vote

On March 17, the UN Security Council voted for a no-fly zone over Libya and for air strikes against the Gadhafi regime. By March 31, NATO had taken charge of the military operation, with Canadian Lt. General Charles Bouchard as commander of the operation.

On June 27, the International Criminal Court charged Gadhafi with crimes against humanity; however, Gadhafi continued to deny any wrong-doing and would not step down.

At a July 15 meeting of the 32-nation Contact Group on Libya, Canada, along with other member countries, officially recognized the opposition group the Transitional National Council (TNC) as Libya’s legitimate representative.

By doing so the Contact Group hoped to facilitate the transfer of frozen Libyan assets to the TNC. To date, both Britain and France have transferred several hundred million dollars in frozen assets. According to Foreign Minister John Baird, Canada, like other nations, remains restricted from unfreezing these assets by UN sanctions and domestic laws.

Controversy

The military mission in Libya has not been without controversy, as NATO air attacks in cities including Tripoli, Misrata and Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown, have led to civilian deaths as well as the UN-documented defection of over 600,000 people.

Support is waning among the participating NATO countries as costs mount and the battle wages on with no clear resolution. Italy removed an aircraft carrier and hundreds of personnel in July, and Norway pulled out completely in early August.

The July 28 assassination of TNC military leader, General Abdel Fattah Younes, by members of his own camp, has cast further doubt on the TNC’s stability.

Challenges notwithstanding, at present, Canada and the other remaining NATO members in Libya stay committed to their mission.

Key Facts – Canada’s Mission in Libya (source: cbc.ca)

  • Number of military personnel: 650
  • Total hours for Canadian fighter aircraft: Over 1750 as of June 2011
  • Total hours for maritime patrol aircraft: Over 530 as of June 2011
  • Total cost if war continues to September: $60 million
  • Number of missions in which Canadian aircraft have been involved: Over 520 (source: montrealgazette.com)

By Christelle Agboka for
Christelle Agboka is a freelance journalist based in Kingston, Ontario, who covers business and economy news.

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