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Thursday, June 2, 2016

CAF Special Forces in Iraq may stop wearing Kurdish flag


CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Wednesday, June 1, 2016 10:13PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 2, 2016 7:20AM EDT

Canadian soldiers guiding and mentoring Kurdish forces in northern Iraq have been wearing the Kurdish flag on their uniforms in a sign of respect, but that tradition may soon end, CTV News has learned.

Although it is tradition to wear the patch of a military partner, the Kurds do not have a nation state and are seeking independence from Iraq.

U.S. troops were recently ordered to stop wearing the Kurdish flag.

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Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of the special forces in Iraq, told CTV Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme.

Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, commander of the special forces in Iraq, told CTV Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme that Canada is also rethinking the custom.

“We'll re-examine that and we may well take them off too,” Rouleau said.

“Whether we have them on or off, it's not going to change anything about the level of commitment and closeness that we have with the people who we're sent there to support,” he added.
Watch more of the interview with Maj.-Gen. Rouleau on Saturday, June 25 on W5

Over the weekend, Canada’s special forces helped Kurdish soldiers launch a major offensive against ISIS, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists Canada’s role did not amount to combat.

Canadian troops were fired on while assisting with the two-day operation called Operation Evergreen, during which more than 5,000 Kurdish Peshmerga took 120 square kilometres of territory near Mosul.

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose accused the Liberals in daily question period of “misleading Canadians about the nature of this mission,” which she said is now “more dangerous” and “is combat.”

While the Conservatives support “taking the fight to ISIS,” Ambrose said the “Liberals have put them into a more dangerous mission, tried to call it training and have withdrawn our CF-18 (fighter jets) that are a key pillar to degrade the enemy.”

Ambrose said the Liberals pulled the CF-18s deployed under the previous Conservative government for “purely political reasons.”

The prime minister responded by stating that “the mission in Iraq is support, assist … it is focused on training.”

“It is not a direct combat mission,” Trudeau added. “It is not a combat mission.”

Rouleau said the mission was carried out by the Kurds alone as part of Canada’s “advice and assist” mission. While he admits it was a “dangerous” operation, he said that no Canadians were injured and it was not combat.

“We are not conducting unilateral offensive or defensive operations,” he said. “We are not conducting combat operations as Canadian Armed Forces.”

Rouleau said the Canadian role involved “establish(ing) positions so we could provide over-watch” and “mak(ing) sure the Kurds are clearly communicating to their forces.”