Canadian 'expertise' lies in training Iraqis to fight ISIS: Trudeau
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, January 20, 2016 10:58AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 20, 2016 3:38PM EST
The Canadian government will play to its "competitive advantages" in the fight against the Islamic State, offering military training instead of airstrike support in the Middle-East, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
While participating in a question-and-answer session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trudeau affirmed his commitment to end Canadian airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, "in exchange for another way of military involvement, probably around training and such things that can help local troops bring the battle directly towards terrorists."
Trudeau's comments came in response to a question about the prime minister’s pledge to withdraw CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State.
"Countries in the world should look at where their competitive advantages are," Trudeau said. He added that Canada remains committed to playing an "important role" in the military campaign against ISIS, while also helping with humanitarian and refugee efforts.
"We definitely have much to contribute on helping local militia and troops be more effective in the direct fight," he said.
Trudeau said Canadian troops have "tremendous expertise" in providing training and intelligence services to other countries' soldiers and police, much as they did during the war in Afghanistan.
"Ultimately, conflicts like this need to have their resolutions on the ground," he added.
Trudeau's government has faced criticism, from its allies abroad and the Opposition Conservatives at home, over the promise withdraw from the coalition airstrikes.
On Tuesday, Canada was left out of a one-time meeting of coalition defence ministers from countries including Australia, the United States, France and the Netherlands.
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan downplayed Canada's exclusion, saying that such meetings happen "all the time."
But Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose suggested it is a demonstration Canada is paying a price for bowing out of the air campaign.
"When you're not a full partner, you don't get invited to the table," Ambrose told reporters in Winnipeg. "We were asked to join by the United States and other partners, and now we've said we're pulling out of that bombing mission."
Conservative defence critic James Bezan echoed Ambrose's statement, saying the Tories "firmly believe" Canada should be involved in the coalition airstrikes, while also beefing up its military training mission on the ground.
"We should be sitting at the table," he told CTV News Channel. "We have made significant contributions until now."
The meeting in Paris, which Canada was not invited to, will bring together defence ministers from the U.S., France, Germany, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands, to discuss plans for fighting the Islamic State in the coming year.
No Arab countries were invited to the meeting.