By Scott Taylor
Last Wednesday on the eve of the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced to reporters that Canada will assume command of a mission to train Iraqi military personnel. This is to involve approximately 250 Canadian soldiers and include an air detachment of 4 Griffon utility helicopters.
Since 2014, Canada has had military trainers in Iraq and we presently have 4 Griffon helicopters operating in that war torn country. However, those Special Forces trainers had their mission suspended after Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL) were defeated in their final urban stronghold of Mosul last July.
At that juncture the Kurdish fighters, which the Canadians were assisting, began battling Iraqi army troops in a bid to establish their long sought sovereign state of Kurdistan
As Global Affairs Canada officially supports a unified Iraq under a Baghdad controlled regime, our military trainers found themselves on the wrong side of the battle lines, so they did an about face.
The similarity in the force size, the training mandate and the fact that a defence official mistakenly reported that the announced Griffon helicopters were in fact those already on the ground, led some to conclude this was something of a smoke screen.
It was even speculated that this was not an increased commitment at all, but a simple reallocation of already deployed resources, now dressed up as a new NATO undertaking to appease U.S President Donald Trump.
The Donald of course used the NATO leaders’ summit as his bully pit to browbeat all of those NATO allies - including Canada - who are shirking their responsibility by not spending up to two percent of their national GDP on defense.
If Trudeau thought he could apple polish his way into Trump’s good books by first announcing a three year extension to our ongoing deployment to Latvia, followed immediately by this announcement about Iraq, then Justin obviously never read the Art of the Deal.
Trump is still insisting Canada and other NATO shirkers meet his two percent benchmark, sooner rather than later. So much for the attempted smokescreen.
Now that the dust has settled, DND has confirmed that the training mission in Iraq – which is set to begin this fall- is in fact a real increase of 250 personnel and the 4 Griffons will be in addition to the four already in theatre.
In support of Trudeau’s announcement, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters that supporting democracy in Iraq is a “great thing” and she claimed that training foreign troops is something Canadian soldiers do particularly well.
Both of these statements are completely out of whack. The great U.S engineered democracy experiment is well into its sixteenth year in Iraq and to date it has been a complete failure.
The series of ‘elected’ regimes that have governed from Baghdad have not only been amongst the most corrupt in the world, they have also served only to widen the factional divides, resulting in continued violence.
Following the parliamentary elections this past May, Shiite cleric and warlord Muqtada al-Sadr is poised to become Iraq’s next political leader. His Sadrist Party won 54 seats.
However, in 2004 he was regarded by the U.S. to be public enemy number one. Now, he is being praised for the simple fact that he is opposed to Iran’s influence in Iraq. A little side note on al-Sadr’s mental stability, in 2004 while his militia battled U.S. troops, he put up billboards taunting the Americans with the phrase in English “All men belong to me”.
Supporting this guy is not supporting democracy and should not be described as a ‘great thing’.
As for our soldiers training foreign combatants, let me state from the outset that in my opinion Canadian soldiers are the best in the world. That said, training recruits that do not share our language, culture or religion is difficult in the extreme.
We trained, tens of thousands of Afghans during our twelve-year commitment and the Americans have trained hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the past fifteen years. Despite all this training, both the Afghan and Iraqi security forces remain a dismal, dispirited rabble compared to their far more fanatical countrymen who comprise the insurgents.
Our soldiers can teach these recruits, drill and weapons handling, but there is no way we can make them willing to die for the corrupt regimes that are currently in place.
The big question still begs, does anyone in their right mind think that the solution to Iraq’s violent anarchy will be one year of a Canadian commanded mission training more of Iraq’s young men how to kill?