Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Won't Add Extra Special Forces Soldiers to Iraq Mission: Kenney

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Won't Add Extra Special Forces Soldiers to Iraq Mission: Kenney

Article excerpt

No increase in special forces in Iraq: Kenney

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OTTAWA - The Harper government isn't planning to increase the size of its special forces contingent in northern Iraq if Canada's combat mission in the country is extended, Defence Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday.

There has been flurry of speculation about how the deployment might be restructured as the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant evolves and local forces conduct further offensives to drive extremists out of the country.

"I can tell you there is no planning to increase the commitment of 69 special operators in the region," Kenney told the Commons defence committee.

"I'm not aware of any increase in infrastructure to support them. We certainly have no intention of increasing the number of SOF operators."

The declaration stands in contrast to the country's allies, notably the United States, New Zealand and Australia, which recently decided to put 300 more soldiers on the ground to assist with training Iraqi forces.

Kenney may have been able to rule out more troops, but he was more circumspect about whether the scope of operations -- limited so far to advising and assisting Kurdish peshmerga forces -- will change.

"The government has not yet taken a final decision on potential renewal or extension of the mission, and so I'll have to ask the member to wait until that decision is taken and we will certainly report it to Parliament in the form of a motion," Kenney said in answer to a question from NDP defence critic Jack Harris.

His remarks come less than a week after the death of Sgt. Andrew Doiron in a friendly fire incident.

The elite troops are currently helping the peshmerga by guiding airstrikes, something the government doesn't consider combat. They have also been engaged in at least three firefights after snipers began shooting at them during visits to the front.

Experts say one possible change the cabinet could consider would be to allow the special forces to go on the offensive in conjunction with Iraqi forces, conducting pinpoint strikes to kill or capture Islamic State leaders and facilitators in much the same way they did against the Taliban in Afghanistan. …

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