Canada will continue to train Kurdish militia for another two years as part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq, the defense minister announced today. The mission extension is the third in as many years, and Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan left open the possibility of ramping up the offensive, saying the military would "deploy capabilities as needed." "The coalition has made significant progress in the fight against Daesh in Mosul," Sajjan said in a statement, using the Arabic name for the IS group. "As the situation evolves, coalition allies and partners must remain flexible and adapt to changing threats." Implicit in the announcement is a rejection of accusations by opposition parties that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has been waging a secret war in Iraq without parliamentary approval. Critics questioned the government's claim that Canada had undertaken a non-combat "advise and assist" role in Iraq after it was revealed earlier this month that a Canadian special forces sniper had taken out an IS fighter. "I can tell you that defending our allies in the coalition has been an integral part of our mission," Trudeau said on Tuesday. "This is completely in keeping with our responsibilities as Canadians, as members of the coalition in northern Iraq and it will continue to be that way," he said. For Sajjan, Canadian operations in Iraq are consistent with a recent defense policy review that "made very clear" Canada's readiness and willingness "to do its part for the global community," including "confronting security issues that threaten our shores and those of our allies and partners." Trudeau's Liberals withdrew six Canadian fighter jets from the coalition in 2016, fulfilling a campaign promise, but tripled the number of military trainers in Iraq to 210. Hundreds of ground personnel were also deployed to support two surveillance aircraft and a refueling jet, as well as a handful of tactical helicopters. The mission extension to the end of March 2019 -- the same year Trudeau goes to the polls to seek a second mandate -- allows for a total number of 850 soldiers tasked to the coalition.
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