A simulated exercise at Canada’s Role 2 medical unit. The unit has had its mandate extended into next year

A simulated exercise at Canada’s Role 2 medical unit in Erbil, Iraq. The unit has had its mandate extended into next year
Photo Credit: CAF- Combat Camera

Conversation with the Canadian General fighting Daesh

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Canada has been with the Coalition forces to defeat Daesh in Iraq since 2014. This year Brigadier-General Daniel MacIsaac took over command of the Canadian contingent.

I spoke to him from a Canadian base in Kuwait about the mission and the evolving situation.

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Brigadier-General Daniel MacIsaac, the Commander of Joint Task Forces - Iraq, greets new members of Operation IMPACT as they disembark from a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J Hercules on July 7, 2017.
Brigadier-General Daniel MacIsaac, the Commander Joint Task Forces – Iraq, July 7/17. ©  Op IMPACT Imaging

The role of the Canadians has been changed this month.

About 200 elite Canadian troops have been in an “advise and assist” role with Iraqi and Kurdish forces up till recently.

In that role, although not theoretically to be actively involved in any combat, a Canadian sniper set the record for a confirmed kill shot at over 3 kilometres, a shot which apparently broke up a Daesh ambush, likely saving many Iraqi soldiers lives.

That advise and assist role however has been placed on hold as tensions between the formerly allied Iraqis and Kurds increased dramatically after Kurds voted in September for an independent territory in northern Iraq.

The special ops forces are not under BGen MacIsaac’s command and so he did not directly answer a question relating to their activity. Questions on activities of Canada’s special ops forces are very seldom answered by the military or government citing security issues.

Canadian special forces troops launch into a mission from a base in Erbil, Iraq, on Nov. 14, 2016. In October the federal government put a halt on its special forces troops training of Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the wake of fighting between the two factions.
Canadian special forces troops launch into a mission from a base in Erbil, Iraq, on Nov. 14, 2016. In October the federal government put a halt on its special forces troops training of Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the wake of fighting between the two factions. © Murray Brewster/CBC

However, as Daesh has been pushed out of their previous strongholds, a vast number of improvised  explosives and booby traps have been left and Gen. MacIsaac said a team of 20 Canadian engineers will now be training Iraqi engineers on demining and dismantling of the deadly devices.

 A door gunner with the Tactical Aviation Detachment watches out of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter during Operation IMPACT on September 27, 2017.
A door gunner with the Tactical Aviation Detachment watches out of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter during Operation IMPACT on September 27, 2017. © Op IMPACT, DND

BGen MacIsaac says its part of the “train the trainer” approach so that these Iraqi engineers can go on to train others in the clean up effort. MacIsaac says many civilians are injured by these explosives scattered in the rubble as they attempt to return home.

 A technician guides a CC-130J Hercules as it returns from its first mission with Operation IMPACT in Kuwait on July 12, 2017.
A technician guides a CC-130J Hercules as it returns from its first mission with Operation IMPACT in Kuwait on July 12, 2017. A second Canadian Hercules will be joining the Coalition effort ©  Op IMPACT Imaging

The training, at a base in Besmaya, Iraq will continue until early next year.

The last of Canada two Aurora surveillance planes will also be going home after flying hundreds of missions to locate Daesh fighters and strong points.

A second Hercules transport plane will be arriving to add further capacity to the Coalitions needs for transport of material and personnel, in addition to an air-to-air refueler.

The Canadian medical team has also had its mandate extended into 2018.

Kill foreign fighters

As for foreign fighters, the French, U.S., British, and Australian forces have all suggested to varying degrees that anti-daesh forces should kill any foreign fighter rather than allow them to return home with the potential to carry out terror attacks.

Kurdish soldiers from the Anti-Terrorism Units escort a blindfolded Indonesian man suspected of ISIS membership, at a security centre, in Kobani, Syria in June. Several coalition governments have strongly suggested to anti-Daesh forces that foreign fighters should be killed rather than allow them to return. Canada has a policy of reintegration.
Kurdish soldiers from the Anti-Terrorism Units escort a blindfolded Indonesian man suspected of ISIS membership, at a security centre, in Kobani, Syria in June. Several coalition governments have strongly suggested to anti-Daesh forces that foreign fighters should be killed rather than allow them to return. Canada has a policy of reintegration. © Hussein Malla/Associated Press

Gen. MacIsaac said capture of foreign fighters is a consular issue.

A Canadian official responding to a CBC question wrote, “”Returning foreign terrorist travellers and their families, specifically women and children, require the appropriate disengagement and reintegration support”.

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