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Canada to end air strikes against ISIS

Canada will keep two surveillance planes in the region as well as refueling aircraft and will triple the number of soldiers training Kurdish troops

Published: Updated:

Canada’s prime minister on Monday announced that the country will end air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) by Feb. 22, saying that “the people terrorized by ISIL every day don’t need our vengeance, they need our help.”

Justin Trudeau, following up on campaign promises he made last year, also announced that the government will expand efforts to train local forces and rebuild the war-torn region. Military personnel in the region will increase to 830 from the current 650 and provide planning, targeting and intelligence expertise.

“As I said many times throughout the campaign in my commitment to Canadians, this is a non-combat mission,” Trudeau said. The Liberal leader said Canada’s contribution to the U.S.-led coalition’s mission against the Islamic State group is being extended until the end of March 2017.

The U.S. had asked coalition members to boost their military contributions in Iraq and Syria against ISIS after the deadly attacks in Paris in November. However, Trudeau’s promise that Canada would pull its jets was already part of his winning campaign.

“While air strike operations can be very useful to achieve short-term military and territorial gains, they do not on their own achieve long-term stability for local communities,” Trudeau said during a news conference Monday. The country had six fighter jets carrying out the strikes.

“We will be supporting and empowering local forces to take their fight directly to ISIL so that ... they can reclaim their homes, their land and their future,” the prime minister added.

Canada will keep two surveillance planes in the region as well as refueling aircraft, and it will triple the number of soldiers training Kurdish troops in northern Iraq to about 200, from about 69 now. The size of Canada’s “train, advice and assist” mission will triple, including additional medical personnel and equipment including small arms, ammunition and optics to assist in training Iraqi security forces.

Trudeau said the government will spend more than US$1.15 billion (CA$1.6 billion) over the next three years on the mission as a whole, including on security, stabilization and humanitarian and development assistance.