Friday, December 16, 2016

Sajjan: Aleppo is a Tragedy; But Canada Not Getting Involved in Syria

By: David Pugliese, National Post 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says that though what is happening in the city of Aleppo is a tragedy, Canada will not be getting involved militarily in the Syrian civil war.

Aleppo had been under siege by Syrian government troop with support from Russian forces, leading to massive casualties and widespread destruction of the once-bustling city.

Under the terms of a new deal, up to 4,000 rebel fighters and their families will be allowed to leave parts of the city Thursday, which is now mostly under control by Syrian government forces after a four-year battle.

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“What is happening in Aleppo is tragic and it needs to change,” Sajjan told journalists Thursday on a conference call from the London, where he attended a meeting of defence ministers from the nations contributing to the war against ISIL.

But when asked whether Canada would join other nations in training moderate Syrian forces, who are fighting both the Syrian government as well as troops from the extremist Islamic State, Sajjan said the Liberal government has no plans to get involved.

“Our focus has always been in Iraq and that is our focus now,” he said. “Right now we have no plans to be militarily involved in Syria.”

Canada is contributing surveillance aircraft and a refueling plane to the coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq. It also has around 200 Canadian special forces on the ground, advising Kurdish forces involved in advance on the ISIL-held city of Mosul. Canadian special forces have taken part in the fighting, firing anti-tank missiles at ISIL forces and engaging in gun battles.

Sajjan said Canada’s involvement in the Iraq mission will continue in 2017 but there could be changes to that contribution once Mosul is retaken.