Written by: JDM, Canadian Forces Dispatch author
Last Updated: February 8, 2016 - 2:12 pm
In a nearly hour long briefing and question session, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by Minister of Defence Sajjan, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dion, outlines Canada's new mission against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.
Prime Minister Trudeau started the press conference by thanking the RCAF and its personnel for their service to Canada over the past year and half in the fight against ISIS. The Prime Minister made it clear, he believes that, "airstrikes can be useful...and there is a role for bombing in the short-term," however, he said, "they cannot ensure a long-term stability for the region."
As examples to support his opinion, Trudeau pointed to US led airstrikes in Afghanistan and Libya.
The Prime Minister stated that Canada is going to contribute and is committed to a multi-lateral robust mission to stabilize the region.
Canadian CF-18 fighter jets will halt their airstrikes on ISIS positions as of February 22, 2016, and will be withdrawn from the region. The CC-150 Polaris, and CP-140 Aurora aircraft will remain as part of the US-led coalition.
Canada will triple the size of its training force in Northern Iraq. Specifics on who Canada will be training are still vague - and should be outlined in a technical briefing by the Chief of Defence Staff later today. It is assumed that most of this training will be to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces that Canada's current 69 Special Forces trainers are currently working with. There were also some hints that some of the training might be for the Iraqi Security Forces in the northern region of Iraq. However, it was announced that the CAF will also provide medical personnel to the new training mission; something that is currently not part of OP IMPACT.
Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Parliament will debate and vote on this motion when Parliament resumes next week. However, with the Liberal Majority, it will likely not make any difference, as it is expected all Liberal members will support the motion. The Opposition Conservatives will likely be up-in arms over the withdrawal of Canada's CF-18s which can be seen as valuable in this mission, especially with the 10 RCAF Airstrikes already in February.
Prime Minister Trudeau has faced opposition on many fronts to maintain the CF-18 presence in Iraq and Syria - but has remained adamant that he will not back down from his election promise; this despite the fact that most polls continue to show that Canadians support the bombing mission. According to an Angus Reid poll late last week, it showed that only 27% of Canadians agreed with the Liberal plan to withdraw the CF-18s. While, 64% said the bombing should continue, or increase.
“We know Canada is stronger, much stronger, than a threat posed by a group of murderous gang of thugs,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said his decision to pull the CF-18 fighter jets was guided by a “desire to do what Canada can do best” to assist affected regions.
“For us, this is the right approach,” he said.
Increased training efforts are “very much appreciated by the Iraqi government,” he added.
Canada's training mission will be an "Advise and Assist" mission. So the specifics seem not to have changed from Canada's current training mission, and CAF members will potentially still be on the front-lines of the Battle with ISIS - although will only fire-back when fired upon.
The difference in the Liberal plan is Canada will commit to sending small-arms and ammunition to those who the CAF is training. The mission will remain under the OP IMPACT banner until March of 2017; at which point the mission will be reviewed, and ensure it remains relevant before any extension is considered. Any changes will again be subject to parliamentary approval. The total number of personnel deployed under Operation IMPACT is increased to a maximum of 830 CAF members, from the previous mandated level of 600 personnel and 69 advisers working in an advisory and assistance role to the Iraqi security forces.
Over the next three years, Canada plans to commit $1.6 Billion to the region to combat ISIS. Much of this funding will go to Lebanon and Jordan who have seen the largest influx of refugees. A large portion of this funding will be directed to building local capacity to ensure long-term stability in the region. The humanitarian mission includes $840 million to provide water, shelter, health care, and sanitation. Another $270 million will be provided to assist countries that are helping refugees from the region.
In a statement by the interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose, she called the withdrawal from the combat mission a “shameful step backward” for Canada.
“For generations, our men and women in uniform have fought bravely against those who violate human rights, and those who threaten and terrorize the innocent and vulnerable,” she said. “Today, in his first major foreign policy decision, the Prime Minister has shown that Canada is not ‘back’.”
Ambrose went on to call ISIS “the greatest terror threat in the world” and said pulling back threatens the safety of Canadians.
Today's announcement comes before the NATO Secretary meeting in Brussels later today.
In a statement on DND's OP IMPACT webpage reads:
"Subject to further discussions with the Government of Iraq and coalition partners, the Government of Canada is implementing a renewed and broadened whole-of-government approach to the fight against ISIL. The main areas of engagement are Human Assistance, Building Resilience, Political Engagement and Security and Stability. The CAF is responsible for the Security and Stability area and sees its contribution of military capabilities and personnel increased. The military engagement in Iraq and Syria under Operation IMPACT is extended until 31 March, 2017."