A Peshmerga mans a lookout at Hassan Sham, 40km west of Erbil, this week. Photo: Mohammed Shwani/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Canada has ended its training mission with the Peshmerga and turned its focus in Iraq to the city of Mosul.
“Training with the Peshmerga was ceased when it was no longer of any value in terms of the battle against Daesh [ISIS],” Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday.
A member of the US-led coalition against ISIS, Canada had focused its efforts on training the Kurdish forces.
The Peshmerga Ministry's Jabar Yawar praised the training their forces have received, especially in urban fighting tactics. He told Rudaw they maintain good relations with all members of the coalition.
Canada suspended its training program when Iraqi and Kurdish forces clashed last fall in the wake of Kurdistan’s independence referendum. Ottawa has been very cautious in its support of the Kurdish forces, not wanting to be seen taking sides in an internal Iraqi conflict or to be perceived backing a separatist group.
That training program is now ceased entirely and the approximately 200 Canadian forces in Iraq are focused on Mosul’s security in order to create conditions so that people can return to their homes in the war-shattered city.
"We're working now on the plans to help set the conditions for a successful return of population to Mosul," explained Vance.
"There are still remnants of ISIL there. Not fighting. They're not actively conducting operations, but they could."
The shift of Canada’s mission in Iraq likely means that more than $7 million worth of weaponry intended for the Peshmerga won’t end up in Kurdish hands.
Canada had promised the delivery of arms – that included grenade launches, sniper rifles, anti-tank weapons – over two years ago, but the shipment was held up for months by a Baghdad reluctant to sign off on the transfer.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in March that the weapons could go to Iraqi forces or to support a NATO training mission