Details/Information for Canadian Forces (CF) Operation ASSIST

CF Overseas Operations have most often operated within the construct of an international mandate. As such, the International Information is presented first in order to provide the context of the Canadian Operation (displayed second). Eventually, all rotations associated with the particular Canadian operation will also be displayed.

ASSIST
Kurdish refugees getting water from polluted river in the
Yekmal Camp.

International Information

International Operation Name: Operation PROVIDE COMFORT (II)

International Mission Name: Operation PROVIDE COMFORT (II)

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Middle East

Location: Iran, Iraq and Turkey

Mission Date: 9 April 1991 - 8 June 1991

Mission Mandate:

Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was a United States-led operation, given approval through UN Security Council Resolution 688 (5 April 1991). The resolution stated that the Security Council “Condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population (most notably the Kurdish regions) by its government, and insists that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to deliver humanitarian aid to the Kurdish refugees in the region.”

Mission/Operation Notes:

Iran, Iraq and Turkey all have significant Kurdish populations, and for much of the 20th century Kurdish groups waged both violent and non-violent campaigns aimed at these three countries seeking the establishment of a separate Kurdish state - Kurdistan. Following the Gulf War the Iraqi military had been weakened and disorganized, and thinking that they might receive American assistance, Kurdish rebels began operations against Iraqi forces in northern Iraq in March 1991 and had soon taken control of large areas there. Iraq responded to these attacks in strength, and within two weeks had regained all the lost territory. Fearing for their personal safety, over one million Kurds fled into the mountains of Iran, Turkey and the far northern tip of Iraq. The physical conditions these refugees faced were brutal, and by the first week of April the death toll was estimated to be approaching a thousand a day.

Reacting to this crisis, the UN Security Council passed resolution 688 (5 April 1991), which demanded that Iraq halt the repression and requested member states to assist in the humanitarian relief efforts. The United States launched Operation PROVIDE COMFORT on 6 April, operating from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. British and French cargo aircraft arrived the next day, with more from another 10 nations arriving soon thereafter.

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Canadian Forces (CF) Information (ASSIST)

Name: ASSIST

Date: 19 April 1991 - 8 June 1991

CF Mission/Operation Notes:

While the Government of Germany requested Canadian Forces airlift assistance to ferry relief supplies into Turkey and Iran, the United States also requested Canadian airlift and medical support to the Kurds still in Iraq. The Canadian reply was swift and immediate. Within hours of the 09 April 1991 order, Operation REGARD was put into motion. Canada responded by dispatching two CC130 Hercules transport aircraft from 429 Transport Squadron out of CFB Trenton, one CC137 (Boeing 707), configured for cargo, from 436 Transport Squadron out of CFB Trenton and elements of 4th Canadian Field Ambulance consisting of 10 UNIMOG ambulances and support vehicles from CFE Lahr, Germany. Operational control of CF air transport and medical elements was put under the appropriate US European Command (USEUCOM) commanders as required. Due to confusion with the similarly named Operation RECORD, on 12 April 1991, the Chief of Defense directed that Operation REGARD be changed to Operation ASSIST effective 19 April 1991.

The CC137 was used to airlift German Red Cross relief supplies into Teheran where it completed six relief flights from 18 April 1991 until returning to Canada on 23 April 1991. The two CC130 Hercules aircraft were used to ferry and airdrop relief supplies into Turkey and Northern Iraq from 16 April 1991 until deploying back to Canada on 2 May 1991. Due to a perceived threat from the Iraqi military, fighter (F-15, F-16), and ground attack (A-10) aircraft, provided by USEUCOM, escorted the CC130s. All told, Canadian aircraft delivered some 788,700 pounds of relief supplies to the Kurdish people.

While the air force was dropping the badly needed supplies, elements of the 4th Canadian Field Ambulance deployed 62-strong to the Turkish Kurd areas of Yesilova and Yekmal while other elements deployed to the Iraqi Kurd areas of Zakhu and Silopi. The medical company assisted approximately 300 patients per day resulting in over 15,000 individuals being treated during their deployment from 19 April 1991 until redeployment back to Germany on 8 June 1991. A further 41 personnel were involved in the airlift and 13 in the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters.