The Mission to Destroy Islamic State
"We are always honoured to have them [Canadian special forces personnel] at our positions."
"It was my wildest dream to work with the Canadians. Having them show up and help us, we would die for them."
Capt. Dhyab Mohammed Omar, commander, Peshmerga, Kurdistan
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz A Canadian Forces door gunner keeps watch as his Griffon helicopter goes on a mission, Feb. 20, 2017 in northern Iraq.
"The predominance of [battlefield wounded] cases we’re getting are emergency \- department-type casualties or patients that you would get when you get over 5,000 military troops all in one place."Canadian military personnel were first dispatched to Iraq in September of 2014 with a mission to aid in the training of the Peshmerga in their dedicated conflict against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Their training mission did not make them immune from coming under fire from Islamic State, and on those occasions, Canadian soldiers fought back, in unison with the Peshmerga. That active combat role has been scaled back, however. Leaving the conflict interaction to the Iraqi military.
"We actually understand even in conflict, there are rules that you need to follow that respects the dignity of life [so that wounded ISIL fighters are also given treatment when detained by coalition forces, reflecting laws governing war]. That’s what makes us different."
Lt.-Col. Richard Morin, Canadian military camp in Erbil, Camp Erable
"The challenge here [for the helicopters] is the more [power] wires and the weather during winter."
"We had some fog. But generally, the weather is good."
Maj. Mathieu Bertrand, commander, helicopter squadron, Camp Erable
At the present time, approximately 150 Canadian troops are stationed in Erbil, the Kurdish capital in Iraqi Kurdistan. There is a helicopter squadron with logistical staff, and skilled medical personnel, all supporting the special forces mission, extending to the wider coalition fight against ISIL. This is post kick-off followed by withdrawal of the final attack against Mosul to free it from Islamic State which began in October. At this juncture, it has been left to the Iraqi military to complete the combat mission.
The Canadian mission has been altered to once again going to the skies to identify and monitor Islamic State targets in the area, maintaining tabs on their movements through optical sights and whatever alternate means are required, on "key enemy movement corridors" between Syria and Iraq, including those areas within and immediately outside of Kurdish territory. Identifying Islamic State positions and conveying that data to the allied forces, guiding them to the attacks on ISIL.
The Peshmerga had built extensive earthworks as barricades to produce defensive positions, around Erbil toward the Mosul Dam, successfully stopping ISIL from streaming into northern Iraq. Now, four Canadian Griffin helicopters from Canadian Forces Base Valcartier in Quebec are dispatched daily to carry troops and equipment from Camp Erable to special forces troops in the field, flying low over fields and isolated communities, avoiding attracting enemy fire.