Canada silent as U.S. debates policy shift in Islamic State war strategy

The Obama administration is under pressure to stretch the definition of what it means to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

OTTAWA — The Obama administration is under pressure to stretch the definition of what it means to “advise and assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Whether Canada would feel obliged to follow suit, however, remains a mystery.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN over the weekend he’ll consider recommendations to place ground forces in Iraq to help locate targets if it’s recommended by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Joint Chiefs chairman U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey said last week that when it comes to retaking Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, it’s possible American troops might be needed.

Like the U.S., Canada has a no-combat prohibition on its roughly 69 special forces troops in northern Iraq, and the current combat mission explicitly rules out the deployment of conventional ground forces.

But Roland Paris, an international security expert at the University of Ottawa, says Washington’s policy appears to be drifting towards another ground war in Middle East and it’s important Canada not follow suit.

Paris says the U.S. has also been very specific about how it intends to conduct training for Iraqi forces, but Canada has been silent on its position and whether it would participate.

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