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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Canada in Iraq: CF-18's to be Withdrawn by March 2016

For the first time since being elected on October 20th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally put a rough timeline on the end of Air Task Force Iraq - saying yesterday that he will recall the CF-18 fighter jets before the current mandate ends at the end of March 2016.

Despite some pressure from G20 members on how the group can ramp-up pressure on ISIS, Trudeau is sticking to his election promise to withdraw from the air campaign. Trudeau believes that Canada can play a more important role in the fight against ISIS. Trudeau has called for an expanded role in training the Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq.

This is the first time the Prime Minister has set a timeline for bringing home the jet fighters. The end of March, 2016, is when a parliamentary motion on the ISIS mission which was passed by the former Conservative government expires, leaving as much as 4 1/2 months for the Canadian Armed Forces to prepare for the warplanes’ exit.

The Kurdish peshmerga troops, however, who are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq and are Canada’s main partners in the region, are now appealing to the Trudeau government for weapons and equipment.

“We hope that Canada will continue to play an important part in the coalition against [IS] and will provide weapons and training,” Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan Regional Government representative to the United States, said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.

“The peshmerga are not equipped like a modern army and need everything, from basic tactical equipment to ammunition and arms to heavy assault vehicles. Weapons systems like the MILAN rocket have saved countless peshmerga lives. Battlefield medical kits, helmets, winter tactical gear, night-vision binoculars are in great need. Armoured vehicles are also critical to protecting Kurdish forces as we take the fight to [IS]. We also need medical training for frontline peshmerga and mine-clearance and counter-IED equipment.” 

Despite Trudeau's stance on the air campaign, he did take part in a closed door session of the G20 meeting Sunday, that went well past midnight local time. The United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China were all part of the meeting on how to respond to ISIS. Many from around the world are calling for increased military efforts in the wake of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris. 

Trudeau said to the media, no one asked him to reconsider his pledge to withdraw from the air campaign. 

France’s ambassador to Canada, Nicolas Chapuis, insists his country is not critical of Mr. Trudeau’s plan to withdraw CF-18s, noting that the Prime Minister is emphasizing Canada will remain committed to the effort against Islamic State through other means. Mr. Chapuis said other contributions, not just airstrikes, are welcome.