Recently revealed documents have shed more light on the shadowy operations of Canada’s Special Forces Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2). The information regards two investigations, referred to as Sand Trap 1 and Sand Trap 2, which are intended to determine whether or not members of JTF2 were involved in committing war crimes in Afghanistan.
An unnamed member of JTF2 claimed that in 2006, one of his peers shot and killed a man who was attempting to surrender to Canadian Forces. He also claims that in 2008 during a joint operation with American troops, an American soldier shot and killed a wounded and unarmed man.
The whistle-blowing soldier reported these incidents to his superiors but in 2008, he went to the military ombudsman because he felt that his superiors had failed to investigate the matters.
Sand Trap 1 was the initial investigation into the allegations – that a member of JTF2 killed an unarmed man in Afghanistan. The investigation concluded without laying any charges. Sand Trap 2 began as a result of additional claims by the unnamed soldier and some information uncovered in the course of Sand Trap 1.
Sand Trap 2 is, at present, still underway and as such, the military will not release any information pertaining to it. The focus of Sand Trap 2 is a claim that the Canadian Forces chain of command was creating an atmosphere that encouraged members of JTF2 to commit war crimes in Afghanistan.
Rear-Admiral Robert Davidson, Director of Staff for the Strategic Joint Staff, Canadian Forces, released a statement regarding the investigations, assuring the public that, “whenever CF members have been alleged not to have met our high standards of conduct, we have moved quickly to investigate and, where appropriate, lay charges.” Other military officials have also expressed concern that members of JTF2 not be treated as guilty without due proof.
Most Canadians consider the possibility of soldiers from their country committing war crimes to be appalling. At the same time, many Canadians have never heard of JTF2. The Canadian government is extremely secretive about the unit, which was formed in 1993 to take over counter terrorism duties from the RCMP.
Since that time, JTF2 has become Canada’s premier elite fighting unit. With roughly 350 members, the requirements and training for the unit are supposedly as rigorous as those for the elite American Delta Force and the British SAS, widely considered to be the best special armed force in the world.
The Canadian government is so silent about the units operations that more information on their work in Afghanistan is available from U.S. sources, rather than Canadian ones. Throughout the War on Terror, JTF2 has been involved in high altitude reconnaissance missions, has been deployed in isolated mountain areas for extended periods of time and engaged in direct combat against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda with other Special Forces groups.