Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan tours front lines

Minister says the issue of the Trudeau government's plan to withdraw CF-18s hasn't come up

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan toured the front lines in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on Monday, meeting with Kurdish military commanders and Canadian special forces who repelled last week’s major offensive west of Irbil.

He says the issue of the Trudeau government’s plan to withdraw CF-18 fighter-bombers hasn’t come up in conversations with either Iraqi officials in Baghdad, nor the Kurds.

Instead, Sajjan says they’ve discussed how Canada can refocus its military commitment with a beefed up training mission, and he’s given some suggestions on contributions the country can make — ideas he hadn’t previously considered.

The front line was ruptured in perhaps as many as five places as Islamic State units unleashed a torrent of artillery and large suicide bomber trucks, which the Americans call Frankentrucks.

The assault was rolled back the next day with the help of airpower — including the CF-18s — and U.S. coalition commanders estimate as many as 200 extremists were killed in the failed attempt to break the stalemate, which has gripped the line in northern Iraq since the summer of 2014.

Sajjan says he’s also had a lot of discussions about the sectarian divide in Iraq — the root cause of the violence — and he’s convinced that more needs to be done to address it.

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