Shomporko Desk:-OTTAWA – Canada’s war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has unobtrusively entered a new phase, ensuing in plans to keep fewer troops in the Middle East significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.
The Canadian Armed Forces have had up to 850 troops in the district as of late, including several military trainers who have been showing the fundamentals of soldiering to Iraqi powers as a feature of the worldwide battle against ISIL.
The military reviewed about a large portion of the unexpected to Canada in March as COVID-19 spread far and wide, constraining an end to numerous military activities. The desire at the time was that most would return once the danger retreated.
But Brig.- Gen. Michael Wright, who as commander of Joint Task Force Impact oversees most of the Canadian military’s anti-ISIL efforts, says that won’t be the situation after associated commandants decided the Iraqi military is currently to a great extent ready to battle the militant group all alone.
“For Canada and a number of the other nations, some of the soldiers that were retrograded in March will not be coming back because there is no longer a requirement for them to do the more hands-on, tactical-level tasks that they were performing,” Wright said in an interview this week.
The decision means the first permanent reduction in the Canadian military’s footprint since special forces soldiers arrived in October 2014 to help stop ISIL from taking control of Iraq and Syria.
While Canada’s mission evolved numerous times in the intervening years as the focus shifted from stopping ISIL to taking back what territory it had captured to training local forces on how to fight the group and prevent it from reconstituting, it remained largely the same size.
Canada isn’t alone in drawing down its forces in Iraq; the U.S.-led coalition handed over a major base to the Iraqi military last week, the latest such facility to have changed hands as various countries have started to withdraw from the region.
The overall reduction doesn’t just coincide with COVID-19 but follows a dramatic increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iraq earlier this year after an American airstrike killed a prominent Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, near the Baghdad airport in January.
Iran retaliated by launching a ballistic missile attack against two U.S. military bases in Iraq, including one used by Canadian special forces, while some Iraqi officials called for all foreign troops to leave the country. There has also been a spike in attacks by pro-Iranian militias in Iraq.
A Canadian general will also continue to command a NATO training force in the country until later this year, Wright said, when control will be handed over to Denmark.
“There is still very much a requirement to work at the higher levels, to work at the operational level and the strategic level,” he said. “But for the low-level tactical training, that is no longer required. Which should be the normal progression for any capacity-building mission.”
The next major shakeup is expected next year as the current mission mandate is slated to expire at the end of March. Wright said he expects the federal government to discuss and determine Canada’s next steps for the region later this year.
Photo credit: The Canadian Press
News source: The Canadian Press