Two CF-18 Hornets. Photo via Canadian Armed Forces
With one dead Special Forces operator killed in Iraqi Kurdistan, a burgeoning public debate over an increasingly unpopular anti-terror bill, and alleged homegrown radicals arrested almost weekly, the Canadian political landscape is dominated by the spectre of a terrorist organization that the Canadian Armed Forces is still busy bombing in Iraq.
As it stands, Canadian CF-18 Hornets have dropped a series of precision-guided munitions on Islamic State targets in over 412 sorties—military parlance for a plane attack or dispatch.
"On 9 March 2015, while taking part in coalition operations in support of Iraqi security forces, CF-188 Hornets successfully struck a series of ISIL staging areas and fighting positions west of Kirkuk using precision guided munitions," said the latest Department of National Defence update on Operation IMPACT—codename for the Canadian mission in Iraq.
The same Canadian fighters also struck two "ISIL ammunition caches southeast of Haditha" using smart bombs.
On March 7, the day after Sgt. Andrew Doiron was gunned down by the very Peshmerga forces he was training in a friendly fire incident, Canadian warplanes aided Iraqi ground forces during a coalition mission south of Kirkuk—near the invaluable northern Iraqi oil fields—in a wider campaign that's given birth to a major Kurdish rally against the Islamic State.
When asked if Special Forces trainers had since exchanged gunfire with ISIS operators while attached to Peshmerga units, an incident not altogether uncommon for those Canadian commandos, a spokesperson for National Defence was evasive.
"Operational security does not allow us to comment on specific operational tactics and procedures, planned or ongoing military operations," said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson did add that Canadian soldiers will remain in Iraq passed their current six month deployment if asked to do so: "(t)he CAF is prepared to meet the government's request should it decide to commit Canadian troops for a longer period."
Though the Canadian Special Forces training mission is set to come to an end by the end of March, Canada's contribution to the international coalition against ISIS will continue to consist of six CF-188 Hornet fighter jets, a CC-150T Polaris refueller, and two CP-140 Aurora surveillance planes, and hundreds of personnel stationed in Kuwait supporting air operations.
On the ground, Canadian Special Forces operators have engaged in gunfights with ISIS militants, which, opposition parties argue, is against the spirit of the mission the Conservative government originally outlined in October 2014. While not much is known about the shadowy movements of Canadian commandos in Iraq, their mission is bringing them near enemy frontlines.
Meanwhile, back home, thousands protested the increased policing powers provided to intelligence and law enforcement agencies in bill C-51—a piece of legislation largely enacted on the heels of high-profile terrorist attacks against Canadian servicemen last fall.
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