Canada to beef training of Iraqi forces, but experts ask: How far will it go?

A former overseas commander says if Justin Trudeau's beefed-up training mission in Iraq is to succeed in a timely manner he'll have to consider allowing Canadian troops to accompany local forces on operations in limited circumstances.

OTTAWA — A former overseas commander says if Justin Trudeau’s beefed-up training mission in Iraq is to succeed in a timely manner he’ll have to consider allowing Canadian troops to accompany local forces on operations in limited circumstances.

Retired lieutenant-general Stuart Beare says advising and assisting local forces — essentially classroom training — is valuable, but the ability to able to follow those students to the field is important to ensure lessons have been learned.

Prime Minister Trudeau says the country’s CF-18 warplanes will be withdrawn from combat before March and replaced by a more-robust training mission, although many of the details are still being worked out.

Beare, who is now a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, but also served as the deputy commander of NATO’s Afghan police training mission, says he’s convinced the U.S-led coalition as a whole will have to “evolve” towards allowing western troops to accompany Iraqi and Kurdish forces if it wants to dislodge the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in a reasonable time frame.

He says whether Canada would allow that is a policy discussion that will have to happen.

The Harper government allowed special forces trainers to accompany Kurdish fighters to the front and direct air strikes against Islamic State positions — something the Liberals opposed.

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