Advertisement

Canadian NATO commander wary of ‘underground’ threats ahead of Iraq training mission

Click to play video 'Canadian at helm of new NATO mission in Iraq' Canadian at helm of new NATO mission in Iraq
WATCH: Canadian commander talks NATO training mission in Iraq

The Canadian commander of NATO‘s new mission to train military instructors in Iraq says he has a challenging job on his hands, but one that could be vital to promoting long-lasting stability in the country.

Maj.-Gen Dany Fortin will oversee a “train the trainer” mission, the mandate of which will be to teach Iraqi military instructors to impart key skills such as bomb disposal, combat medicine, equipment maintenance and logistics to their trainees.

Some 250 Canadians will be among Fortin’s approximately 500-strong contingent in the mission, which Canada committed to leading in its first year.

READ MORE: Here’s what you need to know about Canada’s newest NATO training mission in Iraq

Fortin, who was named commander of the 1st Canadian Division in Kingston, Ont. in April, said the biggest challenge will be for NATO and Canadian personnel to mould their working methods to the needs of Iraqi forces.

Story continues below advertisement
“[The challenge] will be to really a get a good understanding of what the needs of the Iraqis are, not what we think they are,” Fortin told Global News.

“So we’re going to have to adapt a few of our processes so it makes sense to them, it fits with their values, their ideas… and I think that’ll be a bit of a challenge.”

WATCH: Trudeau announces Canada to lead NATO mission in Iraq

Click to play video 'Trudeau announces Canada to lead NATO mission in Iraq' Trudeau announces Canada to lead NATO mission in Iraq
Trudeau announces Canada to lead NATO mission in Iraq

The training mission comes amid what Fortin termed a “turning point” in Iraq, with the Iraqi government keen to consolidate control and build up its military capacity after dealing several defeats to Islamic State militants with the help of Western coalition partners.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’re at a point where we collectively need to focus on stabilization efforts,” Fortin said. “Daesh now is no longer able to maintain control over large pieces of ground, unable to mount complex operations.”

WATCH: Freeland, Sajjan discuss new Canadian military mission in Iraq

Click to play video 'Freeland, Sajjan discuss new Canadian military mission in Iraq' Freeland, Sajjan discuss new Canadian military mission in Iraq
Freeland, Sajjan discuss new Canadian military mission in Iraq

However, the territorial losses suffered by Islamic State militants doesn’t mean the threat posed by them has disappeared altogether, Fortin cautioned.

“It’s a complex security environment in Iraq, there’s no doubt about it, it’s still very much dangerous,” he said. “There is still a threat that’s underground. It’s gone underground and it’s very much possible for isolated incidents to occur, so we have to be very safe.

“But I want to reassure Canadians that as a general, I have my eye on force protection, on medical coverage, on the morale and welfare of our troops — NATO troops as well as Canadians.”

Story continues below advertisement

Fortin said he anticipates deploying to Iraq in late October, and that the structure of the training mission will become more clear in the late fall once the needs of Iraqi forces are assessed.

— With files from Abigail Bimman