SHAFAQNA – The 30-day countdown on Canada’s initial mission to Iraq officially started when Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the deployment, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson’s office has revealed.“The clock started on Sept. 5,” Nicholson’s spokeswoman Johanna Quinney said in an email to the Citizen after Nicholson dodged several NDP questions about the date in the House of Commons on Monday. That means the Conservative government has until Oct. 5 to decide whether to keep Canadian soldiers in Iraq where they have been helping Iraqi government and Kurdish forces in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or begin bringing them home. The expectation is the government will extend the mission, perhaps for another 30 days, after which it will again be re-evaluated to determine whether Canada’s assistance is still needed, and whether it is making a difference. Canada has committed 69 special forces commandos to Iraq in what the government has labelled a “non-combat role,” where they will assist and advice Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Canada has also helped transport arms and ammunition to northern Iraq, and committed $28 million in humanitarian aid and another $5 million to halt the flow of foreign fighters from Syria to Iraq. The Citizen also reported last week that Canada will be providing Kurdish forces with robots to defuse bombs and landmines as part of a $10-million agreement to provide the peshmerga with non-lethal military aid. The NDP has been demanding a vote on any Canadian military deployment to Iraq, but the government has refused. The Liberals have indicated their support for the current mission.