Formed in 1993, Joint Task Force 2 (JTF 2), is a Canadian Forces unit responsible for counter-terrorist operations. Subordinate to the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, it comprises approximately 600 members.
The Government of Canada has historically been very secretive about releasing any information relating to JTF2’s capabilities, organization and operational missions.
In 1992, Minister of Defence Robert Fowler announced he was disbanding the SERT police unit and creating a new military counter-terrorism group. The decision was made largely because the Canadian Forces offered better-trained recruits for the program than civilian police forces, and it stemmed the public uproar about police being taught to use primarily lethal means.
In early 1993, the unit was activated with just over 100 members, primarily drawn from the Canadian Airborne Regiment and PPCLI. They were given the SERT facility on Dwyer Hill Road in Ottawa as their own base of operations, and permanently parked a Greyhound bus and a DC-9 aircraft on the grounds for use in training.
Its first scheduled action was Operation Campus, the protection of highways and water treatment plants around the Oka reserve while a police force tried to “crack down on smuggling” on the native reserve, immediately following the Oka crisis. However two daily newspapers in Quebec revealed the operation just days before it was to go into action, and it was canceled.
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The federal budget of December 2001 allocated approximately $120 million over six years to expand unit capabilities and double its size to an estimated 600 forces, as part of the overall plan following the attacks of 11 September 2001.
JTF2 forces were inserted into Bosnia, operating in 2-man teams hunting for Serbian snipers targeting UN forces. They were scheduled to free approximately 400 hostages in Operation Freedom 55, but again the mission was canceled as the Bosnian Serbs released all the prisoners voluntarily.
Approximately 40 JTF2 soldiers were sent to southern Afghanistan in early December 2001, although the Canadian public was not informed of the deployment, following the American declaration of a War on Terror.
Several months later, the Globe and Mail published an image on its front page showing Canadian forces delivering captured prisoners to the Americans, prompting an outcry in Parliament as they were never informed these operations were underway. Vice Admiral Greg Maddison was called before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to address claims that Minister of Defence Art Eggleton had purposely misled the public and the government, even failing to inform the Prime Minister that JTF2 had been operating in Afghanistan.
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In 2004, an estimated 40 members of JTF2 serving with Task Force KBAR were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation by the United States government for service in Afghanistan. Very little is known on JTF2 operations in Afghanistan, but during a conference the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, stated that JTF2 is in “high demand” and that they are considered to be “world class.” He went on to say that the unit is providing direct support to the Afghanistan government and is targeting the Taliban leadership in southern Afghanistan. He stated that “trying to help neutralize those leaders is a key part of their role and that’s what they will continue to do.”
In 1996, JTF2 deployed to Haiti to advise the security forces of President Rene Preval on methods to repel the revolutionary army, train local SWAT teams and raid weapons smugglers in Port au Prince.
According to the CBC, JTF2 was also in Haiti at the time that Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power in 2004. They protected the Canadian embassy and secured the airport.
On Thursday, 23 March 2006, The Pentagon and the British Foreign Office both commented on the instrumental role JTF2 played in rescuing the British and Canadian Christian Peacemaker Team that were being held hostage in Iraq. But implication of JTF2 was unconfirmed by Canadian officials.