Written by: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
BRUSSELS -- The scope of the Trudeau government's reconfigured mission in Iraq will be broader than just the military and could include a sizable police training contingent, Canada's foreign affairs minister said Wednesday.
Stephane Dion found himself repeatedly buttonholed in the polished hallways of NATO headquarters over the last two days, sometimes by countries eager for Canada to join their endeavours, as the United States made clear it expects allies to do more in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
"It's more than just military, but it's always about security," Dion told The Canadian Press in an interview.
"You can't have security only with military. You have security when people feel secure with their institutions and they believe in them."
One of his nine bilateral meetings included the Italian foreign minister and the possibility of Canada joining Italy in Iraq's Kurdish north. More than 100 Carabinieri -- Italy's national police force -- are training local police in areas recaptured from ISIL.
"Is it an area where we may have a contribution that would be welcome? It is something we have to discuss with the Americans, with the Italians and others," said Dion.
He added that Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is leading the drive to recraft the mission following the withdrawal of CF-18 jetfighters from combat, which is expected to happen sometime this winter.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a beefed-up mission to train local forces in Iraq, over and above the existing 69 special forces instructors working the Kurdish peshmerga in the north of the country. The government has yet to provide details on what the mission would look like.
The pressure is not only on Canada, but all NATO allies. Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a tough, unambiguous message, saying the United States expects them to do more in the war against ISIL.
He told his 27 other counterparts that the international coalition "must strike at the core" of ISIL and strangle its efforts to set up networks elsewhere.
"I called on every NATO ally to step up its fight against Daesh," Kerry said, using the Arabic acronym for the militant group, also known as ISIL and ISIS.
"I was very gratified that a number of allies are already bringing more to this battle -- or are planning to increase their contributions."
He praised British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose Parliament is poised to vote on expanding airstrikes into Syria and Germany, which plans to deploy ships and surveillance aircraft to support operations against ISIL.
"It's a very important step, we applaud his leadership on it," said Kerry, who met with Dion one-on-one. "It is important for the world to join together in this initiative and we welcome Germany's efforts."
Although he didn't reference the Canadian combat withdrawal, Kerry did give the Liberal government an opening by saying that there are a number of countries willing to step up and the contributions don't necessarily "have to be troops engaged in kinetic action."
Kerry said the U.S. has specifically asked for special forces instructors, police trainers and so-called "enablers," such as transport and medical facilities.
As a further reminder that Washington isn't prepared to let allies off the hook, he said the U.S. government will follow up with each country on a military-to-military basis as well as a diplomatic basis "in order to secure additional help."
Also Wednesday, NATO foreign ministers formally invited the tiny Adriatic nation of Montenegro to join the alliance, despite opposition from Moscow. There was also discussion about fully reactivating the NATO-Russia Council, which, prior to the annexation of Crimea, had been a forum for dialogue between the former Cold War adversaries.
"I will now explore how we can use the council as a tool for political engagement," said secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, noting that the recent downing of a Russian fighter jet by Turkey along with other border incidents makes dialogue important.
He insisted it is not a sign of weakening resolve in the face of the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine and for the moment the embattled country's foreign minister seemed prepared to accept the shifting position.
Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine's minister for foreign affairs, said he was for the moment satisfied that it "would not be a return to business as usual."
Dion said there must be constructive engagement with Moscow, but added that Canada will insist that the situation in Ukraine be put on the agenda of any future council meeting.