Ottawa (AFP) – Canadian special forces have ended their training support for Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters, the defense department confirmed on Friday, after Ottawa suspended the assistance in October.
Canada is part of the United States-led international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, which has trained and assisted local forces while conducting air strikes against the jihadists, whose self-proclaimed “caliphate” has collapsed.
“The Special Operations Task Force has partnered with Kurdish units of the Iraqi security forces in the past,” the Department of National Defense said in a statement.
This assistance contributed “to the greater Iraqi security forces successes” in recapturing Iraq’s second city, Mosul, and then in October freeing Hawija, the IS’s last urban stronghold in Iraq, it said.
“The units the SOTF is looking to advise and assist… at this time do not fall under the Ministry of Peshmerga,” it said.
The statement came after Canada’s top soldier, General Jon Vance, was quoted on Thursday in The Globe and Mail as saying that “training with the peshmerga was ceased when it was no longer of any value in terms of the battle” against IS.
In February 2016 Ottawa tripled its special forces contingent to 210 and said its mission to train Kurdish forces would continue into 2019.
But last October, with tensions high between the Iraqi federal forces and Kurdish fighters, Canada suspended its military assistance in the country’s north.
Then, following the retreat of IS from several zones, Canada recalled its Aurora surveillance aircraft in mid-December while reinforcing its support for coalition logistics by sending to Iraq a second CC-130J Hercules transport plane.
Canada also has an aerial refueling plane in the country, tactical helicopters and support personnel.
In 2015, Canadian special forces Sergeant Andrew Doiron was killed and three members of his unit wounded when Kurdish troops mistakenly opened fire on them.