Combating terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere will take time, says Baird

As the federal cabinet considers sending fighter jets to Iraq, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggests Canada and other countries could be in for a long mission.

OTTAWA — As the federal cabinet considers sending fighter jets to Iraq, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird suggests Canada and other countries could be in for a long mission.

Baird predicts that battling extremists in Iraq and elsewhere will take time and says Canada is in uncharted territory when it comes to directly engaging terrorist elements.

“Terrorism, radical extremism, this is the great struggle of our generation,” the minister said.

“Whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Nigeria with Boko Haram, whether it’s with al-Shabaab in Somalia … there’s no quick fixes.”

The federal cabinet is considering the possible deployment of CF-18 jets, along with surveillance aircraft, following an American request for Canada to become more involved in the ever-expanding air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Baird says he won’t speculate on what decision he, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and their cabinet colleagues will reach.

But he told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday that cabinet will play off recent military experiences in Libya and Afghanistan in deciding.

National Defence officials and critics question how long Canada could sustain such a combat mission, given the age of its fighter fleet and other commitments.

Canada already has four CF-18s flying air policing missions over the Baltic as part of NATO’s eastern European reassurance measures on behalf of Ukraine.

Following the Libya bombing campaign of 2011, there was concern in the air force that the CF-18 fleet was already being driven too hard, even with life-extension upgrades completed under the former Liberal government.

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