February 8, 2015:
Canada has sent 625 troops (11 percent of them commandos) to train Iraqis (mainly Kurds) to more effectively fight ISIL. Canadian legislators (not to mention the media and many Canadians) insisted that these troops not be directly involved in combat. Then it became known that Canadian troops had, in the last three months, called in at least 13 air strikes on ISIL and in several instances Canadian commandos used sniper rifles to “neutralize” ISIL mortars and machine-guns. The military responded that this was not exactly involving Canadian troops in combat. Calling in air strikes is something you want to entrust to people with experience especially since Canada also has six F-18 fighter bombers operating over Iraq. Training Kurds to call in air strikes involves showing them how it is done. This is best done at the front line, and demonstrations by the more experienced Canadians is a very useful training technique.
The commandos firing on ISIL fighters was because some commandos were assigned as security for senior Kurdish commanders and Canadian advisors visiting the front lines. When the Canadians and Kurds came under fire the commandos quickly located and “neutralized” (killed or caused to flee) the ISIL men involved. Most of the critics accepted these explanations, which basically said that if you are going to train and advise combat commanders you have to spend some time near where the fighting it taking place. This is not only more realistic, but gives your trainers more credibility of your students can see their instructors in action.
Another factor in all this is that the Canadians have a reputation for being very effective in combat. The Kurds know of Canadian operations in Afghanistan and want to learn from men who know what they are talking about. Many Kurds have extensive combat experience, but these are off fighting ISIL and foreigners like the Canadians are taking over a lot of the training for new Kurd recruits. Everyone wants this to get done right and in northern Iraq this is more important than criticism from politicians and media commentators in Canada.