BRUSSELS — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says allies are giving their political and military blessing to Canada’s retooled mission against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Sajjan, who is in Brussels for NATO meetings, says Lt.-Gen. Sean MacFarland — the U.S. Army officer commanding the campaign against ISIL — considers Canada’s new mission to be “forward-looking.”
Sajjan says MacFarland told him in a side meeting that Canada’s plan to replace aerial bombing runs with beefed-up training efforts on the ground will help him better plan the next phases of the war.
Iraq’s defence minister, Khaled al-Obaidi, was also reportedly enthusiastic about the assignment of a strategic team to the country’s defence ministry in Baghdad, where it will help restructure and mentor the support bureaucracy.
Sajjan says Canada has set the example of what the mission needs for that region.
NATO ministers have also agreed to send warships — including HMCS Fredericton — into the Aegean Sea to help Turkey and Greece crack down on criminal networks smuggling migrants and refugees into Europe.
Sajjan wasn’t able to say precisely what the warships would do beyond helping to identify human smuggling boats for the Greek and Turkish coast guards.