Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Honourable members, it's a privilege to be asked to appear before you today, and I thank you for the invitation. In my opening remarks I'll be drawing from a study, “Leading From Behind Is Still Leading”, which was recently published by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. In doing so, I'll try to be brief and focus on what I think the Libyan operation can tell us about future NATO military deployments.
In February of last year, the Arab spring spread to Libya, prompting large-scale protests in Benghazi. In response, Colonel Gadhafi's regime retaliated with rapidly escalating levels of violence. Consequently, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1973 on March 17, authorizing all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians. Soon after, NATO launched Operation Unified Protector to enforce this UN mandate. This started with a naval arms embargo on March 22, and NATO assumed command of the no-fly zone on March 31.
Unified Protector's goals were three-fold: ending attacks against civilians, returning regime forces to base, and ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to all Libyans. By the conclusion of the mission at the end of October, NATO had flown more than 26,000 air sorties. The Canadian Forces flew 6% of these overall and roughly 10% of the strike missions. As well, our maritime forces made a crucial contribution to the defence of Misrata, preventing that city's fall to Gadhafi's forces at a vital point in the campaign.
Overall, I think two broad lessons can be drawn from this experience for NATO's future military deployments.
First, Unified Protector was an operational success. It ensured the protection of Libyan civilians while keeping collateral damage to a bare minimum. In doing so, it proved the value of NATO's command and control, standardization, and interoperability arrangements, and the alliance was able to assemble and deploy operational forces in roughly two weeks—a remarkable achievement that no other organization could achieve.
Furthermore, the operation demonstrated NATO's ability to work effectively with non-traditional partners. Qatar, the U.A.E., and other players had a significant role in the operation, providing unique capabilities and serving as interlocutors with anti-Gadhafi forces. In doing so, they validated NATO's cooperative security initiative articulated in the 2010 strategic concept.
In sum, Unified Protector demonstrated that under the right conditions and enabled by special operations forces, NATO's air and maritime assets can conduct an effective intervention.
At the same time, however, Libya highlighted a number of shortcomings related to NATO burden sharing. Despite statements that the United States led from behind in Libya, Unified Protector demonstrated the degree to which NATO relies on American military power. U.S. forces conducted the bulk of initial strikes, which allowed the rest of the alliance to conduct a no-fly zone over essentially undefended skies.
Thereafter, the United States contributed the majority of reconnaissance, air control, and electronic warfare aircraft, flew 80% of refuelling flights, and provided most combat search and rescue. In short, while U.S. efforts were not publicly prominent in Libya, without them the mission would simply not have happened. How the United States implements its defence reductions and pivots to Asia will therefore be highly consequential for future NATO operations.
This is especially the case because the role in Libya of other NATO members was highly uneven. Only eight members in total participated in the air campaign, and some of the European partners who did would not fly strike sorties. Libya may have actually provided an early demonstration of the impact the financial crisis is having on NATO Europe, as some of these members were forced to withdraw assets early because of funding shortfalls.
Finally, Unified Protector demonstrated both the potential benefits of NATO smart defence and the likely challenges involved in actually implementing it. The dependence on American air-to-air refuelling, for instance, highlights the rest of NATO's need for such operational enablers. If smart defence can increase the alliance's capabilities in these areas, it will help reduce NATO's reliance on the Americans.
Germany's decision to withdraw its pilots from the AWACS missions over Libya, however, suggests that this is not going to be easy. Both the specialization and cooperation components of smart defence will ultimately require that nations be willing to deploy the assets on operations. Otherwise, the alliance may gain enabling capabilities but still experience burden-sharing shortfalls when the time comes to actually use them.
To conclude, Libya demonstrated NATO's operational benefits and that they are unmatched, but at the same time, exposed a number of major burden-sharing problems. Consequently, while NATO will remain an important element of Canada's role in international defence cooperation, we should be realistic about the contributions we can expect individual members to make to future missions. Not all will contribute equally, but at the same time, this does not undermine the value of operating under NATO command. As a result, Canada should develop even stronger working relationships with the subset of NATO members—particularly France, Britain, and the United States—with whom we are likely to operate alongside in the future.
Focusing any Canadian smart defence efforts on this key group of allies would provide the greatest net benefit for any future Canadian contribution to a NATO crisis response.
Thank you. With that, I'm happy to answer your questions.