Canada must factor in the "ripple effect" new decisions could have on security around the world as it considers future contributions to the fight against Islamic extremists, says Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is conducting a full review of the country's defence policies.
"When we look at the decisions we make, the policies we create, we have to figure out what ripple we're creating," Sajjan said at a foreign policy event in Ottawa on Friday.
"We may not be able to control all the ripples that are out there, but we can control the ripples that we create."
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to withdrawing Canada's fighter jets from the U.S.-led bombing mission against ISIS, but has yet to say when the airstrikes will wind down.
With Canada's commitment scheduled to end at the end of March, Sajjan is under increasing pressure to provide details of the government's next steps in the effort to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"I get questions a lot about operational impact, and 'Why aren't you coming up with a plan?'" Sajjan said in Ottawa on Friday.
"I want to make sure that I have a good understanding of the situational awareness of what we're getting into, so that our contribution to the coalition is meaningful."
"And sometimes the contribution may not be with a stick … but that stick will only buy you time to figure out the real problem," he said.
Afghanistan offers cautionary tale
Sajjan, who served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces before entering politics, said "a hard assessment" of the past 10 years was needed before moving forward.
'Some of our development strategies of the coalition partners early on in Afghanistan helped create the corruption that fuelled the insurgency.' – Harjit Sajjan, minister of national defence
In his opinion, some of the decisions made by the U.S., Canada and other coalition partners involved in the mission in Afghanistan are partly to blame for global security getting "worse."
"Some of our development strategies of the coalition partners early on in Afghanistan helped create the corruption that fuelled the insurgency," Sajjan said on Friday.
The minister of national defence said a surge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan could have been unnecessary if action had been taken at the "first clues of corruption."
Sajjan recounted what a ground force commander in Iraq once told him to illustrate why the West must avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
"Today, we are dealing with the son of al-Qaeda. If we don't get the next piece right — and the next piece is not the military piece, it's that political piece — we will be dealing with the grandson of al-Qaeda."
Sajjan has been tasked by the prime minister with conducting a thorough review of Canada's defence policy, which he hopes to have completed by the end of 2016.
"It needs to be credible, it needs to be relevant," he said on Friday at an event organized by Canada 2020 and the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
Sajjan said he wants to make sure the review is "broad and comprehensive" and not conducted "in a silo."
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion said Canada would not be able to accommodate every request made from our allies in the fight against ISIS.
"We cannot say yes to everything," Dion said.
Approximately 600 Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed as part of Joint Task Force-Iraq, as well as 69 special forces training Kurdish fighters.