Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

Military leaders paint partial picture of Iraq

Kim R Nossal in Marie-Danielle Smith article
Embassy News, February 24, 2016

Some defence experts are crying foul after Canadian leaders implied last week that victory is nigh for the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq.

Changes to Canada’s contribution are already underway, but military-focused academics warn that the rhetoric surrounding those changes doesn’t paint a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, for example, declared Feb. 18 that ISIS is “now losing momentum” in Iraq.

“This evolving operational context has prompted the US to relook at its overarching coalition priorities,” he told the crowd of defence and security experts. “Our government is now taking a more forward-looking approach.”

As Queen’s University professor Kim Nossal puts it, the issue of the CF-18s “continues to be logic-free.” He was a participant at the CDA Institute’s Ottawa Conference last week, where Mr. Sajjan and Gen. Vance presented their arguments.

“You’ve got to put the kind of comments that we heard in Ottawa in the context of trying to add just a little bit of logic to essentially an utterly illogical position,” Mr. Nossal said.

He said it does make some sense to frame the fight this way. If ISIS is indeed on its back foot, and things look more positive, then it’s easier for Canada to rationalize a change of strategy.

“It still doesn’t explain why you want to withdraw your CF-18s, but it does manage to offer a bit of an explanation,” said Mr. Nossal.

The context of Mr. Sajjan and Gen. Vance’s comments to mainly well-versed military experts at the Chateau Laurier hotel needs to be taken into account too, he noted.

“What you want to do if you’re the minister, or if you’re the CDS, is ensure the attentive elite that was there in that ballroom that in fact you’re on top of this. That all is good.”

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