Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Canada in Iraq: What Role Will CAF Play?

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

RCAF personnel and Canadian special forces have played the key roles for Canada’s Iraq mission so far.

But there are reports that the Liberal government could be looking at a deployment of up to 300 military personnel to conduct training.

If they proceed with that number there could be a role for the regular Canadian Army to play in Iraq.

A Canadian Army deployment would dovetail into some of the Liberal government’s messaging on the future mission. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have repeatedly used the example of the Canadian Army in Afghanistan to explain that Canada has specialized expertise in training foreign forces.

There had been an earlier view that the Canadian Army could take too long to get its training personnel into position. But if larger numbers are required, then the government might not have a choice as special forces tends to provide its capabilities in smaller numbers/training packages.

Australia’s contribution could provide Canada with a template. Australia has both special forces and regular Army in Iraq. A combined training force, known as Task Group Taji, consists of around 300 Australian soldiers and 110 New Zealand soldiers. The photo below shows those troops conducting training (photo courtesy of ADF).

A further 20 Australian Defence Force personnel serve within coalition headquarters in Iraq (another option for Canada)

In addition, Iraq’s prime minister has asked the U.S. for more police to help conduct training of the country’s police.

That too could factor into the Liberal government’s plan. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has already acknowledged that Italy has requested Canadian help in training Kurdish police.

When will a decision on the new mission be made and announced? That was the question journalists tried to get Sajjan to answer Monday, without luck.

“The decision will be coming soon,” Sajjan said.

“Which means?,” asked a reporter.

Sajjan didn’t answer.

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