Canada-U.S. alliance 'unbreakable': Carter
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, February 10, 2016 9:39AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 10, 2016 12:45PM EST
The military ties between the United States and Canada remain unbreakable, despite Canada's change to its anti-ISIS contributions, the U.S. secretary of defence indicated at a NATO conference Wednesday.
Secretary of Defence Ash Carter met with Canada's defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, for the first time on Wednesday, at the NATO conference in Brussels.
The pair discussed the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, and Carter "reinforced the United States' commitment to intensify the fight," according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Defence.
Carter also thanked Canada for tripling its training mission, doubling its intelligence efforts and expanding its humanitarian contributions in Iraq, the DoD said. Additionally, Carter spoke with Sajjan about how Canada can "continue to contribute" to the air campaign, by conducting refuelling and aerial surveillance.
"We talked about the fight against (ISIS) in Iraq and the way forward," Sajjan told reporters after the meeting.
Sajjan said boosting Canada's training role in Iraq is all about "staying ahead" of Islamic State militants, both in Iraq and around the world. He said Canada is working to limit their global reach, while also training Iraqi security forces to stop them from seizing more territory in Iraq and Syria.
"The best way to take the fight to (ISIS) is to be able to train the local security forces, and that's what we're doing," Sajjan said. He added that the anti-ISIS coalition already has "a lot of strike aircraft" to carry out airstrikes, and that they "welcome the support for the ground force training" that Canada is going to provide.
In a statement issued later Wednesday, Sajjan's press secretary said the minister is "committed to working with his counterpart on strengthening cooperation in a number of areas of mutual interest, including through their active participation in NORAD and NATO."
According to the statement, Sajjan shared details of Canada's "refocused military strategy" against ISIS. Sajjan and Carter also "reiterated the special bond" between Canada and the U.S., and "affirmed their commitment to stay in close communication."
Earlier this week, Sajjan joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in announcing Canada will end airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria by Feb. 22. Instead, the focus will shift to training Iraqi ground troops. Canada has pledged to triple its special forces training and intelligence capabilities in the region.
However, Sajjan has not disclosed how many additional troops will be sent overseas, to add to the 69 personnel already operating in Iraq.
Sajjan said Wednesday's NATO meeting involved "detailed discussions" about the Islamic State, as well as wider global issues.
He also reaffirmed Canada's commitment to NATO, saying: "Our support for NATO will always be there."