Canada has just 26 special forces ’advisers’ in Iraq, not 69, says letter to NDP

The number of Canadian special forces soldiers advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces is much smaller than originally thought.

OTTAWA — The number of Canadian special forces soldiers advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces is much smaller than originally thought.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has apparently confirmed in an email to the Opposition NDP that only 26 of the highly trained troops are deployed in and around Irbil, in northern Iraq.

The Conservative government, under repeated questioning in the House of Commons, revealed last month that up to 69 commandos were slated to deploy to help local forces battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says only a smaller contingent was required by allies, and noted that the 30-day deployment is under review.

The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, says there were no problems getting the necessary diplomatic approvals, including an agreement setting out the limits of Canadian military involvement.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says if the government decides on a combat mission, including an aerial combat mission, it will be subject to a debate and a vote in Parliament.

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