Harper seeks to expand, extend mission against ISIS

Published On March 24, 2015 | By HN Staff | News
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seeking to expand, extend Canada's fight against ISIS.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seeking to expand, extend Canada’s fight against ISIS.

By Ian Burns

Canada may be fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria for another year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rose in the House of Commons on Tuesday to say that the government would seek MPs’ approval to extend the Canadian military’s mission against ISIS by up to 12 months.

The government will also expand the current air campaign into Iraq’s neighbour Syria, where ISIS has gained a foothold.

“Our objectives remain the same – we intend to continue to degrade the capacities of ISIL,” he said.

Harper noted the expansion of ISIS into Syria needed to be stopped.

“The government is also seeking the support of this house for its decision to expand the air combat mission to include Syria,” he said. “In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.”

Harper also said that the government would “not seek the express consent of the Syrian government” on conducting airstrikes, but would work “closely with our American and other allies who have already been carrying out such operations over Syria in recent months.”

“Our objectives remain the same – we intend to continue to degrade the capacities of ISIL.” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper 

The motion likely doesn’t amount to a huge increase in scope of the mission, Simon Palamar of the Centre for International Governance Innovation,  told Humber News.

“It might really simply be a matter of Canadian forces simply slotting into the existing command structure the Americans have set up,” said Palamar, whose group is a think-tank in Waterloo, Ont.

“In that regard, it’s not a huge step forward,” he said.

Harper also said that the government would “not seek the express consent of the Syrian government” on conducting airstrikes, but would work “closely with our American and other allies who have already been carrying out such operations over Syria in recent months.”

Harper said the coalition airstrikes had been successful in stalling ISIS’ momentum, an assertion that Palamar said he agreed with.

“We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves, and our role there is to help them to do that.” – Stephen Harper

“What we have now is fairly static lines,” he said. “The offensive momentum has stopped.”

Harper also said he agreed that Canada should avoid taking on ground combat mission in Iraq and Syria.

“We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves, and our role there is to help them to do that,” he said.

Palamar told Humber News that a lot of the training Canadian special forces are doing is “fairly rudimentary.”

“It’s just improving marksmanship, it’s learning how to aim,” he said. “They’re training the trainers.”

Palamar said this slowing in the offensive has allowed anti-ISIS forces to take advantage of training, which he said likely wouldn’t require Western troops in a combat role.

“In the fall we expressed grave concern that the prime minister intended to involve Canada in a longer, deeper combat engagement. Today we know those concerns were well-founded.” – Justin Trudeau

Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair castigated the government for pursuing military action, saying he would prefer a humanitarian solution.

The NDP leader said that the mission has neither a “well-defined objective” nor a “well-defined exit strategy.”

Mulcair also said it was “ludicrous” that the Prime Minister was still emphasizing that Canadians were not engaging with firefights with ISIS, in view of the friendly fire death of Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron in early March.

“It’s simply unconscionable that this Conservative government would ask for the authority to extend the mission in Iraq, when so many things they’ve told Canadians about the mission up until now have been false,” he said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said that his party would not support the mission extension.

“In the fall we expressed grave concern that the prime minister intended to involve Canada in a longer, deeper combat engagement,” he said. “Today we know those concerns were well-founded.”

Palamar said the decision to bring the mission to debate in the House of Commons is merely a formality, as decisions to undertake military action are exclusively the jurisdiction of the federal cabinet.

Watch some of the highlights from the debate below.

 

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