Justin Trudeau says Canada to increase number of training troops in Iraq
Canada currently has 69 trainers in Iraq
Canada's fighter jets may not be in the skies bombing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for too much longer, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he wants more Canadians on the ground helping to train local soldiers to fight the terrorist group.
"Obviously we committed throughout the campaign and I've committed repeatedly to my allies that we were going to do more on the training front and that means obviously more than 69 trainers," Trudeau said Tuesday.
That's the number of Canadian special forces members the Conservatives sent to Iraq in 2014 to train Kurdish forces and the Iraqi military.
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While Trudeau has talked about pulling Canada's jets and "refocusing" on training, he hadn't explicitly said that would mean more Canadian trainers.
Trudeau spoke to reporters travelling with him during a flight to the Philippine capital of Manila.
Meeting with Obama
Canada's freshly minted prime minister is just two days away from having his first formal sit-down meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, the world leader heading up the fight against ISIS.
The pair are scheduled to have talks on Thursday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Manila.
"Training is something we do very, very well and that's something we're looking to be very helpful to other members of the coalition with to make sure Canada is doing more than its part in the war against ISIS," Trudeau said.
But it doesn't sound as if he will be able to tell Obama at the APEC meeting how many trainers he'll send. He suggested the government still hasn't decided.
"How many that will be, what form that will take, what kind of engagement we're going to work out- those are things that I've assured my allies and Canadians that 'Yes, we will be doing more.'"
He gave a similar answer a day earlier when asked when he would pull Canada's CF-18 fighter jets from the coalition bombing mission.
Trudeau said the defence minister would reveal the answer "when a decision has been made." Though he did say he wouldn't leave the jets in place until March 2016, as the previous Conservative government had pledged.
He also spoke of a long fight.
"The bottom line is how can Canada best be a strong and positive contributor to the continued and continuing mission against [ISIS]," he said.
"There is no question that this is not going be a short engagement."