Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mistaken Identity/The Fog of Conflict

"[Kurds at the outpost that night were] legitimately concerned about an additional attack by ISIS, similar to the one they'd experienced the night before."
"Our [Canadian instructors] presence at or near the forward positions remains the exception and definitely not the rule."
"He was looking at Canadians, but he saw what he thought was an ISIS infiltration and attack on his position. [The Kurdish combatant] did not wake up in the morning wanting to kill a Canadian soldier."
Canadian special forces commander Brig.-Gen. Mike Rouleau

"[Two separate investigations held responsible] mistaken identity and a breakdown in communication in a setting characterized by tension, fatigue and confusion."
"[Investigators concluded that Sgt.Andrew Joseph Doiron] performed his job to the highest standards both prior to and throughout the incident [and the Canadians] conducted their operations appropriately and in concert with all pre-approved and accepted protocols."
"It was also determined that no Arabic was spoken by [Doiron's team] on the approach to the final position that night, and that Arabic was only spoken after the accident, during the co-ordination of the medevac."
Investigative report on 'mistaken identity' tragedy
Corporal Levarre McDonald 8 Wing Imaging
Corporal Levarre McDonald 8 Wing Imaging    A repatriation ceremony for Sergeant Andrew Doiron at CFB Trenton on March 10, 2015.
When four Canadian soldiers were fired upon by their Kurdish counterparts on March 6, killing their leader, St. Andrew Joseph Doiron and injuring others, shock and dismay ensued on both sides. At the time, a Kurdish commander had been quoted as suggesting that blame for the unfortunate incident was attributable to the fact that the Canadians had approached "the fighting without our co-ordination", and that since the Canadians had spoken in Arabic "leading the peshmerga to believe they were ISIL militants", they were shot.

Dozens of Canadian commandos, specialized in conflict situations were in northern Iraq to help Kurdish fighters in their conflict with the Islamic State. The outpost in question had been under attack the night before, when though several ISIS jihadis were killed, the Kurds also took losses. Early that day the Canadians had been asked by the Kurds to help fortify the position, and they agreed they would return later that night, to do just that.

In the interim the original Kurdish fighters who had requested Canadian help, were withdrawn, with a replacement group moving into the position. The new group, knowing what had occurred the night before with a deadly ISIS attack were nervous, and no one had explained to them the agreement made earlier in the day with the Canadian soldiers. When the Canadian special forces team headed by Sgt. Doiron moved in the dark toward the defended position they noted the presence of a Kurdish fighter on a rooftop.

Simultaneously, the Kurd noted the presence of the four Canadians approaching their position. Sgt. Doiron called out a pre-arranged coded greeting to assure the Kurds that it was the Canadian group coming closer. In response the Canadians could hear the sound of a weapon being cocked: "Wow, wow, wow, Canada!", called out Sgt. Doiron. Whereupon the Kurdish fighter opened fire hitting the sergeant while the others dived for cover.

And then a machine gun was brought into action, bullets flooding from the Kurdish outpost that the Canadians had been approaching as had been pre-arranged earlier that same day. Each time the three Canadian soldiers attempted to retrieve their fallen comrade, the Kurds opened fire again, finally hitting the other three Canadians as well. In the melee that ensued, the Canadians held their fire. And then the Kurds understood that they had fired in error.

They collected Sgt. Doiron and the rest of the team into vehicles and drove to where a helicopter could evacuate them for medical treatment. It was too late, however, to save Sgt. Doiron. Now Canadian military officials have made public the details of exactly what had occurred, releasing a summary of two separate investigations. It was revealed that the Canadian team had encountered a pack of wild dogs as they made their way to the outpost.

The barking that ensued, according to Brig.-Gen. Rouleau "likely further heightened already high Kurdish anxiety levels." Now, in the wake of that unfortunate blight in the co-operation between the Kurdish peshmerga and Canadian instructors, Canadian soldiers in Iraq are permitted to move at night only when escorted by a Kurdish soldier.

That "friendly fire" incident appears to be a standard in all theatres of war; accidents that simply don't seem to be preventable in the confusion that always accompanies such events, when nervous soldiers standing guard occasionally pull the trigger, intimidated by what they are uncertain of, determined to evade facing an enemy, with dire consequences, as a result of not being sufficiently alert.

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