OTTAWA, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said here Monday that his country will end coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq by Feb. 22.
Trudeau also announced that the government will expand efforts to train local forces and rebuild the war-torn region.
Canada will triple the number of training contingent in Iraq from the current 69 to 200 for the next two years, and military personnel deployed as part of Joint Task Force-Iraq will increase to 850 from the current 650, he said.
The decision to pull out all six Canadian CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led bombing mission against ISIS was guided by a “desire to do what Canada can do best” to assist affected regions, Trudeau said, using an alternate acronym of the extremist group.
The previous Conservative government committed Canada to the coalition airstrikes until March. The new Liberal government was elected last October on a pledge to pull Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets out of the bombing mission.
“It is important to understand that while airstrike 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.
Asked whether Canadian military trainers will engage in front-line operations or on-the-ground combat alongside local security forces, Trudeau said: “This is a non-combat mission.”
Meanwhile, Trudeau said his government will contribute more than 1.6 billion Canadian dollars(some 1.15 billion U.S. dollars) over the next three years toward its new approach to security, stabilization, humanitarian and development assistance in response to the crises in Iraq and Syria, and their impact on Jordan and Lebanon.
Trudeau said that to solve the crisis in Iraq and Syria will require “a political solution.”
Trudeau has been under pressure to keep the CF-18 fighter jets in the combat mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But he has repeatedly said that he won’t back down on his election promise.
In a statement issued after Trudeau’s announcement, interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose said the withdrawal from the combat mission a “shameful step backward” for Canada, calling IS “the greatest terror threat in the world and threatens the safety of Canadians.”
Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance said: “his is exactly the right time” to pull Canada’s fighter jets from the bombing campaign.
“There is sufficient air power available in the coalition to continue the air bombardments with the support of Canada’s refueller and our targeting to ensure that mission continues,” the top general told reporters following Trudeau’s announcement.