Canada 'unlikely' to proceed with plan to arm Kurdish forces: top soldier
Published Monday, June 11, 2018 6:03PM EDT
Canada’s top soldier says the federal government is unlikely to proceed with a plan to give millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.
“I would say right now that arming the Kurds with the plans that we had is unlikely to happen at this juncture,” Gen. Jonathan Vance told reporters on Monday.
Last year, the federal government announced that it would give the Kurds weapons such as rifles, machine-guns, grenade launchers and anti-tank missiles as part of Canada's revamped mission to help eradicate ISIS in the region.
But Vance said Monday that the end goal of that plan – helping the Iraqi military, Kurdish peshmerga and coalition forces recapture Mosul from ISIS – was achieved without the need to transfer weapons to the Kurds.
“It was not a matter of policy that we would (send the weapons), it was a matter of necessity that we would if we had to and we didn’t have to and we’ve achieved that part of the mission,” Vance said.
By the time the weapons were purchased late last year, the relationship between Iraqi and Kurdish forces had deteriorated over the Kurds' renewed push for an independent state in northern Iraq.
The weapons intended for the Kurds remain in storage at a Canadian Forces supply depot in Montreal. Last month, the Conservatives urged the government to give the weapons and military equipment to Ukraine instead.
"They've been allowing these weapons to sit in storage and collect dust and, meanwhile, the violence in Ukraine has taken on a new spring offensive," Conservative defence critic James Bezan said at the time.
Last fall, Canada suspended all assistance to the Iraqi military and Kurdish peshmerga as the two forces clashed. Up until that point, Canadian special forces had worked alongside the Kurds for more than three years, but Vance confirmed last week that the Canadian-Kurdish partnership is officially over in Iraq.
With files from The Canadian Press