NATO members like Canada committed to anti-ISIS assistance beyond defence

NEW YORK, US — US President Donald Trump is expected to request that all NATO leaders to commit to joining the US-led international coalition against ISIS at the summit in Brussels today, but Canada’s foreign minister told Rudaw that Ottawa  seeks a balance of fire power and peacebuilding.

“Canada is committed to a stable Iraq making sure that groups like Daesh [ISIS] do not get a foothold,” Harjit S. Sajjan told Rudaw’s Majeed Gly. “But also I just want to add into this that we cannot look at those operations without looking at peace operations as well.”

The Associated Press reported US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the flight to Brussels that it would be "a very important step" for NATO to join the 68-nation international coalition.

While many NATO countries are members of the coalition, the use of forces under the NATO flag in the fight against ISIS is another matter.
Canada, for instance, has been debating its new defense policy, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver on June 7. Canadian state CBC News reported a senior government official said the original plan had been to release the policy before the NATO meeting. But officials believe it is important that the updated defense policy be aligned with a broader set of foreign policy goals.

“We extended the current mandate by three months just so can we could have more time to making sure that we have the right plan in place and we will make the adjustment accordingly whether it’s from military development and from the political side of things whatever resources to put in,” Sajjan said.

Canada has 200 special forces in the region, along with air operations which have flown almost 3,000 sorties, trainers, medics as part of its Operation IMPACT. Its CF-18 Hornet jets stopped flying in February 2016, but the Royal Canadian Air Force continues to do refueling and reconnaissance missions.

Trump has expressed that he wants other nations to meet their obligation to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense. Canada now spends 1 percent on defense compared to 2 percent in 1988, according to The World Bank.

“We are looking at the importance of peace operations because it’s not just about preventing conflict,” Sajjan added. “It’s about reducing the recruitment of fighters into these organizations so all of our efforts are interlinked.

“So that’s why when Canada is making an announcement, we are looking at the broad concept of things. We are not just looking at the United Nations peacekeeping and operations in isolation because we can't.”

Sajjan stressed the key cooperation between Canada’s interior and defense ministries as being an asset for the coalition in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

“It is making sure we have the right resources on the ground to making sure that ration contributing is going well,” he said.

Sajjan highlighted the example of Canada’s construction of a Role 2 field hospital to provide emergency care to casualties and aid in medical evacuations that provided care for wounded Kurdish Peshmerga in the Mosul offensive.

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