Canada is withdrawing their fighter jets and intend to cease all airstrikes against ISIS within the next two weeks.
Ahead of a NATO meeting scheduled for February 10, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that he is following through on a promise he made to end Canada’s involvement in the bombing missions against the fundamentalist group known as Islamic State, a promise which was reiterated in The Guardian following his election victory last October. In order to meet this commitment Canada are pulling all six of the CF-18 fighter jets out of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria and Iraq on February 22.
Canadian jets have been a part of the bombing arsenal available to the American led forces since they joined the coalition of 65 nations against Islamic state in October 2014 and the jets have been involved in over 13,000 engagements between them. It had been uncertain whether they would withdraw the planes after the plan drew criticism from a number of coalition members, including the U.S., Britain, and France. They wanted Canada to prolong the involvement of the jets at least until the end of the current phase of the operation, which is planned for the end of March this year, but Prime Minister Trudeau has stuck to his earlier election promise.
The intention to cease airstrikes does not signal an end to Canada’s involvement in the conflict. Reuters reported that Canada are to boost troop numbers in the region.
Currently there are 70 Canadian troops training allied Kurdish troops in Iraq and another around 230 additional troops will join them as Canada seek to expand the training program. In total they will have over 800 troops involved in different operations in the region. In addition to the troops the Canadians will provide weapons and ammunition to the Kurdish troops in Northern Iraq as they seek to do more to help the troops in the region to help themselves. The Canadian air force will also be represented in the region in the form of two Aurora surveillance planes, which are unique to Canada, and an air-refueling plane, which will help the allies to complete long range missions in the region.
Canada is also planning to increase the amount of money they are providing to help with rebuilding the infrastructure in the region to over CDN$1.6 billion. This means that the cost to the Canadian exchequer will actually be higher than it was under the plans previously place. However, Prime Minister Trudeau wants to change Canada’s foreign policy to be more compassionate and less focused on supporting the U.S.-led military interventions favored by his predecessor as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
Speaking at a rally to his supporters in Ottawa early on Tuesday Trudeau said the following.
“I want to say this to this country’s friends around the world: Many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years. Well, I have a simple message for you on behalf of 35 million Canadians. We’re back.”
Trudeau has said that U.S. President Barack Obama accepts Canada’s intention to cease airstrikes in the region and that the two countries will work together to end terrorism in a number of ways. U.S.-Canadian relations had become frosty during the 10 year tenure of Stephen Harper and Trudeau is keen to improve the relationship between the two countries while reducing Canada’s military footprint across the globe.
The allied intervention in Syria and Iraq is likely to go on for the foreseeable future and it remains to be seen how Trudeau will be able to balance a reluctance to be involved in direct military action with meeting the expectations of fellow NATO members. However, it seems that for now at least he can meet his election promise with his plan to cease airstrikes while still keeping his allies happy with a significant financial investment and increased commitment to help with non-direct military action against ISIS.