No, you did not read that title wrong. On Friday at a NATO summit in Wales, Prime Minister Harper announced his plan to deploy several dozen Canadian armed forces advisors into Iraq, which, over the past decade, has proved to be somewhat of doozie for militaries who think entering the country will be a simple matter of killing a few Tusken Raiders. This news will surely be met by a range of reactions that unlike the audience at a Kanye West concert, will be diverse, though involve just as many white people shouting.
Those being deployed include a contingent of special operations forces, but no specifics were released on what type of work they will be doing. One of Harper’s spokespeople described the broader Canadian mission as one that provides “strategic and tactical counsel to Iraqi forces before they start tactical operations” against the ISIS. “This is an advise and assist role, not one in which Canadian Forces will be accompanying Iraqi forces on missions [or] tactical operations. They are there to provide advice that will help the government of Iraq and its security forces be more effective against ISIL (ISIS),” wrote Jason MacDonald in an email to CBC News. A release on the Prime Minister of Canada’s web page said, “this will contribute to protecting Iraqi citizens being persecuted by ISIL and help prevent any further escalation of the humanitarian crisis being caused.” About 100 Canadian troops will be in Iraq for 30 days. The deployment will then be reassessed.
Now, anyone can reasonably argue whether our involvement in Iraq is a good or bad idea, and if we can count on the 30 day limit. I know the last time I said, “I’ll be in and out of there in no time,” I ended up entering IKEA when it was light out, leaving when it was dark, and carrying a lot more than just the intended lamp.
While the Harper cabinet has handled this announcement with great care to assure the non-combative nature of the deployment is understood, Harper did stress the reality of the situation. “While it’s low risk, it’s not without risk.” He later told the CBC the risks of the deployment are “acceptable and manageable. Our men and women in uniform [are] ready to answer this call, and I thank them for always being prepared to defend Canadian values and interests in a dangerous world.”
Canadian Foreign affairs minister John Baird, as well as NDP and Liberal foreign affairs critics visited Iraq earlier this week. They visited the Kurdish front lines and the crowded displaced person camps. Baird deflected discussion on strengthening the Kurdish military with further arms shipments, and instead focused on how Canada is sending additional humanitarian aid. Opposition leaders are being briefed on the deployment, but Canada still needs to receive finale consent from the Iraqi government to begin.
It’s an uncertain future for Iraq and the Canadians who will be sent there. Between the merciless executions and their rapid military takeover, it is clear ISIS is a force to be reckoned with, and I stand with Prime Minister Harper in thanking our brave men and women for facing this threat. But we should all do our part in protecting our Canadian values. I know I sure am, but I’m just happy my part doesn’t require wearing pants.