While Obama declared his intent to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, a group he incredulously claimed is not Islamic, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada will send up to 100 military advisers to Iraq.
“The fanaticism of the terrorist group is a real threat to regional security and millions of innocent people in Iraq, Syria and beyond,” Harper said recently at the NATO summit in Wales. He continued, “Left unchecked, ISIS is also a direct threat to Canada and its allies.”
Harper also said that the Canadian Forces members will provide strategic and tactical advice to Iraqi forces as they begin operations to combat ISIS. Members of Canada’s Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) will be deployed once arrangements are finalized with the Iraqi government, a senior government official told reporters.
The initial deployment could last up to 30 days or longer depending on mission reviews.”This is an advise-and-assist role, not one in which Canadian Forces will be accompanying Iraqi forces on missions and tactical operations.” Jason MacDonald, Harper’s communications director said, “They will work closely with U.S. forces (and) will remain under full command of Canada’s chief of defense staff.”
Canadians are experienced after over 10 years of serving in Afghanistan, the last Canadian troops came home this past May when Harper declared a National Day of Honor on May 9 to commemorate the Canadian Forces’ service and sacrifice there. They could offer a lot of help to the Iraqis in dealing with ISIS.
Last month Canada sent food, hygiene kits, cooking materials, blankets, tents, and medical supplies to northern Iraq, and planned to send two cargo planes to help deliver weapons and other military supplies to Kurdish forces.
On September 9th, the Canadian House of Commons foreign affairs committee had a meeting to discuss plans. New Democrat Party Member of Parliament, Jack Harris asked the Foreign Affairs and Defense Ministers, “Do we have any specific criteria by which a judgment should be made?”
Foreign Affairs Minister Baird said it includes urging “Iraqi leaders to come together in a pluralistic government.”
Liberal MP Marc Garneau added, “ISIS has to be dislodged and eventually defeated.”
NDP MP Paul Dewar made clear “the priority for our government is to help those that are suffering.” He added that “supporting the victims of sexual violence” and the prosecution of their perpetrators was key. Baird voiced agreement.
“I’ve heard from you what we won’t be doing,” Dewar asked. “But what is it we will actually be doing?”
Canadians are as tepid on the idea of Canadian boots on the ground as Americans, but they believe the US is right to continue the airstrikes against ISIS. Canadians generally prefer for Canada to use their Intel and bomb them.
Prime Minister Harper faces a tough election in a few months, and his approval rating right now is at only 29% -35% depending on polls. Some feel that sending forces to Iraq now will put Harper in a vulnerable position, yet anger over ISIS barbaric acts may cause the general public to support his decision. Canada is no stranger to terrorist groups and threats. The last major trial was held in Brampton, Ontario of the “Toronto 18” which was the result of counter-terrorism raids in and around Toronto and suburban areas where18 people who had been inspired by al Qaida were arrested and later convicted in 2010.
Harper promised that Canada’s involvement in Iraq will be to assist the Iraqi forces and help boost the fighting power of Kurdish forces and stated that this is a Canadian initiative, not a wider NATO mission, and that the forces are expected to operate from Baghdad.