OTTAWA --- Canada will cease its air strike campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) no later than February 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today. The move is part of a revamped strategy that will prioritize training local security forces over combat operations.
Ottawa's air combat mission, dubbed Operation Impact, includes six CF-18 fighters conducting airstrikes, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft, and an aerial refueling capability provided by one CC-150T Polaris tanker. Although the CF-18s are coming home, Canada will continue aerial refueling and surveillance missions with the CC-150 and one or two CP-140s. The Ottawa Citizen also reported that the military is considering sending four CH-146 Griffon helicopters to Iraq to use as transports.
There are currently 69 Canadian Forces troops in northern Iraq training local security forces. As the combat aircraft leave, the number of trainers will be tripled. The total number of Canadian Forces personnel deployed in support of Operation Impact will also increase from 650 to 830. Canada plans to allocate CAD264 million to pay for military operations through March 31, 2017, at which point the government will decide whether to extend the mission. Another CAD41.9 million will be spent to redeploy personnel and equipment in 2017.
Trudeau also said Canada will enhance counter-terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear security efforts, at a cost of CAD145 million over the next three years. The government also plans to spend CAD840 million over three years on humanitarian assistance, and CAD270 million over three years to support refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. Overall, Trudeau said Canada will contribute more than CAD1.6 billion over three years, but that figure will increase if military operations continue beyond March 2017.
Canada's air campaign in Iraq began in November 2014. The Canadian Forces had been operating under a six-month mandate through March 2015, which limited aircraft to operations in Iraq. On March 30, Canada's Parliament approved a plan to extend the mission by one year, and to expand the scope of operations to include targets in Syria. CF-18s struck their first target in Syria in April 2015.