Canada's combat mission in Iraq could last beyond 6 months

Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson says Canada's upcoming combat mission in Iraq will be a difficult one against a "barbarous opponent." Canada's special forces could also come under fire in their role as military advisers, military leaders say.

Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson calls mission 'difficult' against a 'barbarous' opponent

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson says the upcoming combat mission in Iraq will be "difficult." It also may last beyond six months, the military admits. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The coalition mission against ISIS militants is "not likely" to achieve its goals within six months, Canada's senior general said Friday.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson said the mission is a difficult one, against a "barbarous opponent."

​"I think it's a bit strong to expect that all the measures of success will be fulfilled in six months. Is there a scenario where it could happen? Maybe, but not likely," Lawson told reporters.

"What's more important right now is that we have the authority to work with the coalition for six months. After that, we'll see."​

Any extension of Canada's military mission would be a decision for the government. The motion passed by the House last week authorized a combat mission of up to six months.

Senior military officials provided an update for the media as preparations continue for Canada's air combat mission to fight ISIS in Iraq.

During the briefing, they acknowledged that special forces advising Iraqi troops on the ground could come under fire from ISIS extremists as the battle continues.

Lawson was joined by Brig.-Gen. Michael Rouleau from the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command and Lt.-Gen. Jon Vance, the head of Canadian Joint Operations Command.

The generals also touched on:

  • Criteria for success, which Vance said included the rehabilitation of Iraqi armies "to get them on their feet."
  • Plans to limit risk to civilians and the Canadian military. Vance said this included using Aurora reconnaissance aircraft as an "unblinking eye" to "limit the potential of missing the comings and goings of civilians from perhaps a target area."
  • ​The role of Canada's military advisers to assist in training of not only counterterrorist forces but also regular Iraqi forces.
  • ISIS capabilities, which Vance described as "fluid."

The Harper government announced Oct. 3 that it would begin a six-month, 600-troop combat mission to Iraq to participate alongside its allies in an air bombing campaign designed to cripple the capacity of ISIS extremists currently running roughshod over parts of Iraq, as well as Syria.

Six CF-18 fighter jets, one CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling aircraft and two CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft are being deployed, along with the necessary air crews and support personnel. 

Canadian troops will be working out of a forward operating base in Kuwait. A reconnaissance team returned earlier this week from the region, and the first wave of troops left Wednesday from CFB Trenton.

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