Montreal

Former Canadian Forces soldier returns from fighting ISIS in Iraq

CBC's Daybreak spoke with 'Wali' to get a sense of life on the frontline and find out what he thinks it will take to beat ISIS.

'Wali' has been on the frontline fighting alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga for 5 months

Wali, depicted here a guest on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle, says he hopes his role as a filmmaker will help Canadians understand the realities of war and the impact on regular families in Iraq. (Radio-Canada)

A Former Canadian Forces soldier is back in Montreal after a five-month stint fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Thirty-three-year-old "Wali" is an elite marksman who served with The Van Doos — Quebec's Royal 22nd Regiment.

He left the military to return to the frontline and fight alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga, this time armed with a camera as well as his gun. He keeps a regular blog detailing his experiences and is also working on a documentary.

The last time Wali spoke to Daybreak, he was on the phone from the Peshmerga base. This time he joined host Mike Finnerty in studio.

CBC has agreed to withhold Wali's real name because of concerns about his security. 

Mike Finnerty: It could sound slightly crazy to want to go fight such a brutal and determined group of fighters as the Islamic State, who go out of their way, not just to appear threatening, but to put online videos up on the internet to show how brutal they can be.

Wali: I've heard from friends who are still out there that a Kurdish fighter I know, I don't know which one yet, has been captured, and his head was cut off a week ago.

Do you see a greater evidence of the United States Special Forces on the ground in Iraq?

Yes, I did, at least once. They were a team — 12 guys, I think. They were on a small hill helping with airstrikes.

What fascinated me was that they had the best equipment — the best sniper rifles, the best radio, the best optics, everything — but cannot go forward even one kilometre and help during the fighting. They wish to come with us but they cannot, so they help with the airstrike at first, but then they just stay on the hill.

There are a number of reports that suggest that in Iraq, any progress that's being made against the Islamic State is extremely slow. What signs did you see that the Kurds or the U.S.-led coalition were making progress?

It's very slow, like you said. When I came to the Middle East, I thought, "Okay, this war is very simple: we're the good fighting the evil, we want to beat them." But no, in reality it's not that simple — politically, it's very complicated. That's my opinion.

Even just for Kurdistan — they have KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government], which is the Kurdish part of Iraq — there are divisions, different parties. Then you have Syria, you have the Russians, you have Baghdad, you have Turkey — it's a web of different political interests.

What chance is there of defeating Islamic State?

When we decide to beat Islamic State, it will be so easy — a few weeks, I think. In my area of operation, they were so weakened at the end. Let's say we send Canadian armed soldiers — once we start operations, maybe a week or two in my area of operation, and everything would be finished for Islamic State.

It really is the political complexity that stops us from beating the Islamic State. They survive because it's so complicated politically.

You're working on a documentary. Where's that process at?

I already have a teaser. People can watch the teaser at my website Besideheroes.com. I'm going to start the editing process soon. I received already offers from producers. Obviously, nothing is signed yet.

So was this all about filmmaking, thrill-seeking or defending a cause?

All of the above.

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