Trudeau delivered that message two hours after touching down for a whirlwind visit to a base where many Canadian troops had to relocate about a month ago from Iraq.
On an unusually cold day in Kuwait, Trudeau received a warm welcome from the troops, many of whom asked to pose for photos with him. He made his way through, shaking hands and chatting briefly with about 100 Canadian military members who were there to hear him speak.
Canada has two ongoing operations in Iraq, totalling about 500 soldiers, but was forced to suspend them on Jan. 7, days after top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a targeted drone strike by the United States.
One of the missions is through NATO to train Iraqi forces to battle Islamic extremists on their soil, a deployment that is suspended for the time being. The other mission, involving special forces, has resumed.
“We have been, as a country, essential in the efforts to defeat Daesh,” Trudeau said over the roar of jet engines at Ali Al-salem Air Base west of Kuwait City.
“Essential to the efforts in rebuilding and providing a level of stability for Iraq that will allow us to move forward and not just have a more stable and prosperous region but indeed reduce the impacts of terrorism around the world.”
Canada began moving some of its troops from Iraq to Kuwait just hours before Iranian missiles were fired at two Iraqi bases housing Canadian, American and some coalition soldiers. No Canadians were injured, though at least 50 U.S. soldiers developed concussions and other brain injuries from the attacks.
Trudeau said Canada needs to “step up” in the Middle East because its people are “so lucky in so many different ways and blessed with the lives we live.”
He said the Canadian perspective and values are essential in helping rebuild the region.
“You step up, you step up every day far from your loved ones, far from your families, because you believe in the values that Canada stands for and you know we need to work hard and, yes, fight to ensure that those values find purchase elsewhere around the world where people want the same kinds of things that we do: safety, security for their families, opportunities to grow up in a peaceful community and country,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau also met with Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah Monday evening at Bayan Palace.
The trip to Kuwait was planned as part of Trudeau’s week long visit to Africa and Germany but was not made public until now because of security concerns.
Trudeau is scheduled to travel to Dakar, Senegal, next and then conclude his overseas trip with a stop in Munich.