Canada waiting on Iraq before launching next phase of anti-ISIL mission
OTTAWA — Canada is waiting for the Iraqi government to sign off before launching the next phase of its fight against the Islamic State militant group, Gen. Jonathan Vance said Thursday.
Canadian special forces are preparing to work with the Iraqi military to secure the war-ravaged city of Mosul, where Vance said ISIL remains a threat even as thousands of displaced families return home.
Yet before that can happen, the Iraqis need to form a new government — which has proven difficult following elections last month — and indicate whether it still wants international forces operating in the country.
“There are a number of factors affecting mission planning for Iraq as we go forward,” Vance said after an event organized by the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
“The government of Iraq needs to form a government and signal its intent as it relates to future military operations by coalition or on a bilateral basis in Iraq. So that’s Job 1.”
Canadian troops have been largely on the sidelines in Iraq since October, when Canada suspended all assistance to the Iraqi military and Kurdish peshmerga when the two clashed over the latter’s independence referendum.
Up until that point, Canadian special forces had worked almost exclusively alongside the Kurds for more than three years to first stop ISIL’s advance across northern Iraq and then to dislodge it from the region.