09/08/2014 04:12 EDT | Updated 11/08/2014 05:59 EST

Military gets new operations commander as fight against ISIL ramps up

OTTAWA - A former combat commander has been selected to oversee Canadian military operations both at home and abroad.

Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, who twice led the army's task force in Kandahar, will be sworn-in Tuesday as the country's joint operations commander.

He replaces Lt.-Gen. Stuart Beare, also a veteran of the Afghan war, who says the one thing his successor can expect is the unexpected.

With parts of the Middle East, South Asia and African perpetually on fire, Beare said the region he could always count on to remain stable was Europe.

Not anymore.

The annexation of Crimea and the involvement of Russian troops in the fighting in eastern Ukraine has upended the security status quo.

Beare is retiring after 36 years and one of his last acts has been overseeing the deployment of special operations troops to northern Iraq to provide advice to forces battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida offshoot.

Beare says the military's tendency to plan for things to be the same as last year has been thrown out the window over the last few years.

The rapid unravelling of stability along Europe's eastern frontier is a significant shift for the Canadian military, which has not had a continuous presence in the region since early 1990s and the end of the Cold War.

Beare was called upon to rapidly deploy a flight of CF-18 jet fighters and their ground crews to take part in patrols and an air policing mission over the Baltic states. Under his watch, a frigate was redeployed to join a standing NATO task force, which is taking part in an exercise in the Black Sea over the next few days.

He was also in charge of the withdrawal of training forces from Kabul, ending more than 12 years of Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan.

Events there, especially the political turmoil following the presidential elections, have been a personal preoccupation for Beare, who served as deputy commander of the NATO police training mission.

He remains optimistic despite the fact there was no clear winner, allegations of vote rigging and threats of civil war.

"It's not done yet," Beare conceded in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. "The political transition has to happen. I'm still an optimist (because) there's always brinkmanship that seems to go on in Afghanistan. Things always seem to get to the 11th hour."

Cooler heads will likely prevail, said Beare, who worked along one of the presidential contenders, Ashraf Ghani.

"One thing I know him to be is smart and he knows, none of them want the downside of a failed political transition," he said.

One point of pride was the fact that security for the election was almost "non-news," something that was a marked departure from 2009, when NATO and Afghan forces were under almost continuous attack.