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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump’s vow to use torture against ISIL won’t affect how Canada fights in Iraq

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to use torture if necessary in fighting ISIL won’t impact the Canadian Forces, which intend to follow the rule of law and their own values, says a top Canadian general.

Trump declared Wednesday he believes torture works and he has no qualms in using it in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Asked specifically during an ABC News interview about the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, Trump cited the extremist group’s atrocities against Christians and others and said: “We have to fight fire with fire.”

Trump said he would consult with new Defence Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo before authorizing any new policy, but said he had asked top intelligence officials in the past day: “Does torture work?”

“And the answer was yes, absolutely,” Trump said.

That could pose problems for troops working with U.S. forces in Iraq if it became known that detainees captured on the battlefield could end up being sent to CIA prisons or other locations to be tortured. The Canadian Forces hospital in northern Iraq has treated at least two detainees for their wounds. Their current status is not known.

Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. Shane Brennan, commander of Joint Task Force — Iraq, said at a briefing Thursday he couldn’t speculate about how Trump’s views might affect the overall battle against ISIL.

But he vowed that Canadian military personnel would always follow the rule of law when it came to prisoners. “We will be not be going to any type of activity like that,” he said, referring to torture and enhanced interrogation techniques. “We know what our values are.”

Canadian commanders, however, declined to provide an update on what Canadian special forces were doing in Iraq. That update is supposed to come at some point, but military officers didn’t even know in what month that might happen.

During the last mission update, in November, the Canadian military revealed Canadian special forces had engaged in a substantial number of clashes with ISIL gunmen, had fired anti-tank missiles and exchanged gunfire.

Iraqi security forces, as well as Canadian-backed Kurdish troops, have been involved in assault on the ISIL stronghold of Mosul and have engaged in heavy combat.

The number of such clashes involving Canadian commandos was “substantial” and involved several dozen incidents, special forces commander Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleau said at the November briefing. Canadian special forces used anti-tank missiles on three occasions to destroy ISIL suicide vehicles, Rouleau noted.

At Thursday’s briefing, Canadian officers said they didn’t have any information about when Kurdish forces will receive the military equipment promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau said last February that Canada would be providing the Kurds with lethal military equipment but nothing has happened since then.

“The intent remains to deliver the equipment as quickly as possible once the government of Canada has completed the administrative arrangements in securing an end-user agreement with the government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq,” Maj. Mark Peebles said. “Concurrent to these efforts, the process of equipment acquisition has commenced. The exact time lines for the acquisition are still to be determined as they are dependent on industry’s ability to secure the quantities sought.”