ISIS mission: Despite Ramadi setback, battle not lost, Jason Kenney says
'Just imagine if we weren't there, how much more territory they would have claimed,' defence minister says
The seizure of Ramadi by ISIS is a regrettable setback, Defence Minister Jason Kenney says, but no indication that coalition forces are losing the battle in Iraq against the militant organization.
Kenney also stressed on Wednesday the importance of Canada's role in the mission, saying that Canadian CF-18s have successfully struck a number of targets around Ramadi.
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"So we have done our part to continue degrading the capabilities of that organization," he said. "Just imagine if we weren't there, how much more territory they would have claimed," Kenney told reporters following a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto
ISIS seized control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday, as Iraqi forces fled. The militants swept through Ramadi, seizing the main government headquarters and other key parts of the city. It marked a major setback for the Iraqi government's efforts to drive the militants out of areas they seized last year.
A 'wake-up call' for Iraq government
Canada's contribution to the coalition airstrike mission includes six CF-18 Hornets, two CP-140 surveillance planes, one aerial tanker aircraft, 600 Canadian Forces personnel and 69 advisers providing strategic and tactical advice to Iraqi forces.
"We're not losing to ISIS," Kenney said.
"They were basically unstoppable in Iraq last summer, but since Canadian and other coalition air forces and other military assets have come to bear, they have lost significant territory, capabilities and resources," he said.
"But obviously in any military campaign, there are going to be advances and setbacks. This is a regrettable setback. It is an important wake-up call to the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces."
Kenney repeated the government's pledge that Canada has no intention of contributing ground forces to the mission and that the Iraqi security forces must be capable of defending their own people and territory on the ground.
"Fundamentally, the outcome of this struggle against [ISIS] will be determined by the success or failure of the Iraqi security forces and certainly that's their responsibility. We expect them to take it seriously."
With files from The Associated Press