U.S. tells Harjit Sajjan it will 'intensify' fight against ISIS
Defence minister has 1st bilateral meeting with U.S. counterpart Ash Carter
Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan met for the first time Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter, who told him the United States will "intensify" its fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Sajjan's meeting with Carter comes two days after Canada announced it will pull its six fighter jets from the bombing campaign against ISIS by Feb.22, while increasing the number of special forces deployed on the ground to help train Iraqi forces.
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Sajjan is in Brussels for a two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers.
"The two discussed the counter-ISIL campaign, and the secretary reinforced the United States' commitment to intensify the fight against ISIL," Peter Cook, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a written statement following the meeting on Wednesday, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.
"He thanked the minister for Canada's announcement to triple their training mission in northern Iraq, double their intelligence effort, as well as expand their humanitarian and development contributions.
"The leaders also discussed how Canada will continue to contribute to the air campaign by conducting refuelling and aerial surveillance operations," Cook said.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SecDef?src=hash">#SecDef</a> met with Canadian MOD <a href="https://twitter.com/HarjitSajjan">@HarjitSajjan</a> today <a href="https://twitter.com/NATO">@NATO</a>. Here's a readout of the meeting: <a href="https://t.co/yQo6lTUYsK">https://t.co/yQo6lTUYsK</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/USNATO">@USNATO</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NATO?src=hash">#NATO</a>—@PentagonPresSec
Canada also announced additional humanitarian assistance and new diplomatic engagement to address the ongoing crisis.
A statement from Sajjan's office said the minister went over Canada's new commitments and told Carter that Canada is prepared to work with the U.S. in a number of areas, "including through their active participation in NORAD and NATO."
"Minister Sajjan reaffirmed Canada's commitment as a key global coalition partner to address the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria."
'Challenging threats' to NATO's security
The defence minister also met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said in a post on Twitter that he was "honoured" to meet a distinguished politician and a decorated soldier.
Sajjan served as a decorated lieutenant-colonel with the Canadian Armed Forces prior to jumping into politics. He was the first Sikh-Canadian to command a Canadian Army regiment. He's also an 11-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department.
The two discussed security along NATO borders and priorities ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw that will see leaders from 65 countries come together on July 8 and 9.
I have met many distinguished politicians and decorated soldiers. Honoured to meet <a href="https://twitter.com/HarjitSajjan">@HarjitSajjan</a> who is both. <a href="https://t.co/Lx7PH27H8z">pic.twitter.com/Lx7PH27H8z</a>—@jensstoltenberg
In opening remarks at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council defence ministers, Stoltenberg spoke of continued unrest in Ukraine, the spread of terrorism and what has become the largest displacement of migrants in Europe since the Second World War.
"We face the most challenging threats to our security in a generation," Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
"The world has become a more dangerous place, but NATO is responding. We are delivering modern deterrence and defence against the full spectrum of threats.
"We are implementing the most significant boost to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. After many years of substantial reductions among European allies and Canada, defence cuts have practically stopped," the NATO secretary general said.
Stoltenberg thanked the U.S. for its commitment to increase defence spending and military presence in Europe.
While NATO is not officially involved in the fight against ISIS, it does support the member countries that make up the global coalition.