As the domestic debate over combatting terrorism heats up in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, the same Canadian combat planes dispatched to Iraq months ago continue to drop "precision-guided munitions" on Islamic State targets.
The latest release from the Department of National Defence shows Canadian fighter planes destroying ISIS targets all over Iraq in numerous operations over the course of last week.
Acting in conjunction with the ground operations of Iraqi security forces (ISF), Canadian CF-188 Hornets were busy flying over the central Iraqi town of Bayji—the site of an ongoing tug-of-war between ISIS and Iraqi forces, and where the largest oil refinery in the country is located.
"On 12 January 2015, while taking part in coalition missions in support of Iraqi security forces (ISF) ground operations conducted in the vicinity of Bayji, two CF-188 Hornets successfully struck ISIL fighting positions using precision guided munitions," said the release.
The same government statement shows four other missions mainly focusing on Bayji, with one "sortie"—the military term for a plane attack or dispatch—successfully striking an ISIS position in Haditha.
The bombings, mostly in the days following the attacks in Paris, successfully struck an ISIS truck carrying an armoured personnel carrier, a "strongpoint, consisting of staging and storage facilities," and various enemy fighting positions—all in an effort to deny ISIS "safe havens to conduct their operations and contributes to increasing the ISF's freedom of movement in the region."
"Operation IMPACT" limits Canadian bombing campaigns to Iraqi targets, while other coalition planes drop bombs on ISIS positions in Syria—mainly in the hotly contest region surrounding Kobane, the Syrian equivalent to Stalingrad.
News of the successful bombing campaign comes on the heels of increased interest in domestic terrorism issues at home and abroad—something Prime Minister Stephen Harper is capitalizing on in the lead up to the 2015 election.
Last week, Harper came out strong against jihadist organizations in a statement denouncing deadly attacks against the French satirical newspaper—an operation later claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
"They have declared war on anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act. They have declared war and are already executing it on a massive scale on a whole range of countries with which they are in contact, and they have declared war on any country, like ourselves, that values freedom, openness and tolerance," said Harper at a public event celebrating Canadian innovation.
Before citing the successes of coalition forces in Iraq, Harper indicated the terrorist threat "is not going to go away" without the concerted military actions of western powers—lending fresh importance to the current mission in Iraq.
The very next day the Conservative Party put out ads lauding the prime minister's strong leadership in the face of international terrorism, telling potential donors they "can count on Prime Minister Harper's and our Conservative government" to quell the jihadist enemy.
So far Canada's contribution to Operation IMPACT—its official mission against the Islamic State—consists of six CF-188 Hornet fighter jets, a CC-150T Polaris refueller, and two CP-140 Aurora surveillance planes, along with 600 personnel stationed in Kuwait supporting the operation.
Meanwhile on the ground, Canadian Special Forces operators busy themselves training Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq. As of yet, no official boots-on-the-ground combat role is in the cards for Canadian troops.
At home in Ottawa, Harper is potentially readying expanded legislation to beef up the anti-terrorism powers of law enforcement agencies pursuing potential domestic terrorists—or the known ISIS fighters hailing from Canada already in Syria and Iraq. Given the recent arrest of three men on terrorism charges, one allegedly intending to join a jihadist group in a foreign war zone, the surge of homegrown terrorism is a concern for national security agencies in Canada.
The strong statements against jihadism and the celebration of Canada's mission in Iraq could well signal an expansion of Harper's interest in terrorism. Thus far during Harper's tenure as PM, foreign affairs have taken a back seat issue to bigger fish like economic policies.
But with foreign battlefields worsening, and domestic attacks in very recent memory, terrorism might just be the buzzword in the next election. And that will likely happen with the background din of exploding Canadian "precision-guided munitions" in the war-torn cities of Iraq.
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