Politics

Canada extends anti-ISIS mission in Middle East by one year

The Canadian military will remain involved in the hunt for the remnants of the ISIS terror group for another year. The Liberal government has announced it will extend the capacity-building and assistance mission known as Operation Impact. The move to stay in the region comes three and a half years after the battlefield defeat of ISIS.

Move comes over three years after ISIS's battlefield defeat

A door gunner with the tactical aviation detachment watches out of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter during Operation IMPACT on September 27, 2017. (Combat Camera/DND)

The Liberal government has approved a slimmed-down extension of the Canadian military's contribution to the ongoing fight against the remnants of ISIS.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a statement Tuesday announcing an extension of the seven-year-old campaign, known as Operation Impact.

The international effort to shore up the military capacity of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon will see the involvement of Canadian troops for one more year.

Although the government has authorization to deploy up 850 soldiers in support of the anti-terrorism mission, Canada's current contribution in the coming year will be significantly smaller, involving 17 troops serving with NATO in an advisory capacity. NATO is helping to rebuild the country's defence ministry and its ability to stand up to ISIS militants.

Two Canadian C-130J transport planes and a headquarters in Kuwait will also provide ongoing support to the anti-ISIS coalition.

Canada's contribution to the mission was substantially larger in previous years, when it led the NATO training mission in Baghdad and provided security for instructors from other countries.

Denmark took over command of the alliance mission in November of last year.

The Canadian military has separate training missions in Jordan and Lebanon involving a handful of personnel. 

A Canadian special forces contingent based in Erbil in northern Iraq was conducting counter-terrorism training — its status is unclear. The Department of National Defence rarely discusses special forces operations. 

Operation Impact was launched by the former Conservative government in 2014 after ISIS militants swept out of the chaos of the Syrian civil war and proceeded to capture a vast swath of territory in neighbouring Iraq.

Royal Canadian Air Force members of Air Task Force-Iraq and several members of the coalition participate in the SHAMAL SERIALS, a combat search and rescue exercise held for personnel of the Middle East Stabilization Force, in a training area in Kuwait on March 16, 2015. (Op Impact, DND)

The U.S. organized a global coalition to evict the extremists from both countries, using a combination of Iraqi and Kurdish forces and Western special forces.

Although Canadian commandos never served in Syria, they were instrumental in assisting Kurdish forces with the recapture of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

ISIS was largely defeated on the battlefield over three and a half years ago, but remnants of the extremist organization continue to conduct low-level terror campaigns throughout the region.

"Canada will remain a reliable partner in multinational operations around the world," Sajjan said.

"By renewing Operation IMPACT, we are reinforcing Canada's support to our NATO Allies and our partners in the Global Coalition, and continuing our important work in the Middle East."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Murray Brewster

Defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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