“It is clear from talking with front line Kurdish Peshmerga that Canadian special forces have done more on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant than their coalition partners, including the U.S., and are going to play a critical part in the coming action to expel these fanatical hardliners from Mosul,” writes the Canadian National Post.
The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command might be reluctant to discuss its missions with the media, or put special operators in touch with reporters, but Kurdish officers on the front lines against the Islamic State in Iraq were effusive in their praise for Canada’s commandos.
“This was not simply the Peshmerga being polite to a visitor,” writes Matthew Fisher in the National Post. “They stressed again and again how immensely grateful they were to Canada for the unique role CSOR and JTF2 have been playing in the war against ISIL.”
One Kurdish general said the Canadians “are among our most important guys,” while another wished he could have more of them deployed alongside his units near Kirkuk.
The Kurds praised assistance from American and European advisers as well, but credited the Canadians with being willing to go “deeper into the field,” spotting targets for both ground and air forces. As the Peshmerga put it to Fisher, Canadian commandos are moving within “shouting distance” of ISIS forces on a daily basis. The Canadians also keep advisers camped close to the front lines, granting their Kurdish allies opportunities to slip away from the fighting for quick training in a variety of military skills.
Such daring is not without cost. Consider the case of Canadian Sergeant Andrew Doiron, who was killed in a friendly-fire incident with Peshmerga forces while surveying Mosul on March 6, becoming the first fatality in Canada’s operations against the Islamic State. Three other Canadian troops were injured in the incident, when a young Peshmerga fighter reportedly misidentified the Canadians at a checkpoint near a hotly-contested area and opened fire. The highly-disciplined Canadian operators did not return fire, having quickly realized they were the targets of an accidental shooting.
Fisher felt Canadian citizens should be given a better idea of what their special forces are risking, and achieving, in the battle against the Islamic State, with due consideration for preserving operational security. “Despite CANSOFCOM’s information blackout, the Peshmerga loudly attested to me how highly they value Canada’s presence with them at the front,” he concluded.