Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion says it will be a matter of weeks, not months, before Canadian planes are pulled out of the bombing campaign against the so-called Islamic State.
Dion made the comments on Monday afternoon following the first question period of the 42nd Parliament. Canada’s original commitment to the bombing campaign under the previous Conservative government had been set to end in March. But the Liberal government pledged to eliminate the bombing element of Canada’s involvement once elected, although it did not provide a timeline.
As of this week, Canadian CF-188 Hornet fighter aircraft were still flying in the skies over Syria and Iraq. The government reported that on Dec. 5, two Canadian planes “successfully struck two ISIS fighting positions southwest of Sinjar using precision guided munitions.”
Canadian planes have been involved in less than three per cent of the bombing flights conducted since the beginning of the military campaign against ISIL last year.
Opposition Conservatives used Justin Trudeau’s first question period as prime minister on Monday to hammer his plan to withdraw the planes. Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said the extremists who have overrun vast swaths of Syria and Iraq are part of a “death cult” that sells women and children into sexual slavery and murders religious minorities.
She wondered how bad it has to be for the Liberal government to keep the jets in the fight.
Trudeau says Canadians spoke during the election campaign and they want to see the mission refocused towards more long-lasting results, such as training security forces. The government has yet to define what sort of military training commitment it will make, although last week at a NATO conference, Dion said the Italians have expressed interest in partnering with Canada to conduct police training in northern Iraq.
With files from the Canadian Press.