Canadian CF-18 fighters flew on 19 airstrike missions in Iraq in December – the most since July 2015, according to the Department of National Defence. And although the government has promised to withdraw the fighters, there’s no sign of slowing down yet. There have been seven airstrikes so far in January.
During the election, the Liberals promised to end the bombing mission in Iraq, though they did not provide a specific timeline. Since the election, the prime minister and the ministers of national defence and foreign affairs have re-iterated that promise.
In an interview with Global’s The West Block on Dec. 20, Foreign Affairs minister Stephane Dion said that the future of the combat mission would be decided “within weeks.”
And weeks later, we’re still waiting on details. In an emailed statement Thursday, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Rachna Mishra wrote that, “Details of the plan will be announced in due course. For the time being, Operation IMPACT continues under the existing mandate.”
“The withdrawal of our CF-18s will be done in a responsible and orderly manner.”
December was one of the busiest months for CF-18s in Iraq – after a relatively quiet fall, the 19 missions bring the level of activity back up to where it was early last summer. The highest month was July 2015, with 25 airstrikes, according to information found on a Department of National Defence website.
Canada currently has six CF-18 fighter aircraft in Iraq, along with one aerial refueller, and two surveillance aircraft.
Canada also has approximately 600 personnel on the ground in Iraq, 69 of them there providing advice and assistance to the Kurdish Security Forces and Iraqi government. Although their focus is on training, some of them were involved in a firefight with Islamic State fighters in mid-December.
The Trudeau government plans to expand the training mission, though they’ve provided few details so far.
“In consultation with its allies and partners, Canada is redefining its role to determine the best way to leverage its expertise while complementing the work of Coalition partners to ensure maximum effect,” wrote Mishra.