Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) is welcomed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he arrives at NATO headquarters in Brussels, on July 11, 2018. Photo: Eric Lalmand | AFP
OTTAWA, Canada — Canada announced Wednesday it will assume command of a new NATO training and capacity building mission in Iraq, sending up to 250 troops, armored vehicles and four tactical helicopters to the country later this year.
The Canadian troops will be deployed in the Baghdad region starting in the fall of 2018 to help "Iraq build a more effective national security structure and improve training for Iraqi security forces," said a government statement.
"We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quoted as saying.
The announcement came as Trudeau was attending a fraught NATO summit in Brussels, at which President Donald Trump stunned US allies by suddenly demanding that members double their defense spending commitments.
The Iraq mission will complement Canada's existing efforts as part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, to which it has been contributing air power, medical support and help in training Iraqi forces since 2014.
Canada also contributes to existing NATO efforts to train Iraqi forces to counter improvised explosive devices.
Last month Canada announced that its 210-strong special forces contingent in Iraq would no longer provide training support for Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters.
In December 2017, following the retreat of IS from several areas in Iraq, Canada recalled its Aurora surveillance aircraft from the country while reinforcing its support for coalition logistics by sending a second CC-130J Hercules transport plane.