Canada extending military missions in Ukraine, Iraq
Canada is extending its military missions in both Ukraine and Iraq, the Liberal government announced today.
The deployment of 200 military trainers in western Ukraine, initiated by the former Conservative government in 2015, will now carry on until March 2022.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, in a joint news conference, said that while Ukraine's defence and security forces continue to make considerable progress, there is still insecurity in the region.
The Ukrainian army continues to battle separatists in eastern regions. Tensions spiked a few months ago when Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and 23 crew members over a dispute in the waters off the Crimean Peninsula.
"The people of Ukraine know they can count on Canada," Freeland said her statement. "We are steadfast in our commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as it works toward a stable, democratic and prosperous future."
There will be no change to the size and composition of the training mission, despite calls from both a House of Commons committee and the Ukrainian government for a stepped-up deployment.
The mission's mandate was due to expire at the end of the month.
The second mission being extended involves a training and advisory deployment in Iraq.
That deployment — leading the NATO training mission and giving direct support to the U.S.-led coalition that has been hunting down the remnants of the Islamic State group — will now continue until the end of March 2021.
The extension of the Iraq mission comes as no surprise. Last summer, the Liberal government agreed to lead the NATO training mission headquartered in Baghdad.
Canada is providing 250 soldiers, a headquarters, security forces and transportation to other alliance members training Iraqi forces to handle security on their own.
Separately and distinctly, Canadian special forces also are providing direct advice and assistance to Iraqi troops in the northern part of the war-torn country.
Sajjan said Canada's mission allows Iraq and coalition partners to "more effectively plan and execute military operations aimed at improving stability in the region."
Canada first deployed troops and fighter jets to the campaign against the Islamic State in the fall of 2014 after the extremist group captured vast swaths of territory in both Syria and Iraq.