OTTAWA—Canadian fighter jets have stepped up airstrikes in northern and central Iraq as Iraqi government forces struggle to contain advances by Islamic State militants, bombing 18 targets in the past four weeks.
“The overall result is that the Iraqis are slowly taking back control of their territory,” said navy Capt. Paul Forget at a briefing Thursday on Canada’s mission known as Operation IMPACT.
Canada’s intensified air campaign has not conducted any airstrikes recently against ISIL targets in Syria. In fact, three months after a controversial motion passed Parliament to expand the air war into Syria, the U.S.-led coalition has assigned CF-18s to attacks on Syrian territory only three times.
Forget had “no information” if the military effort in Syria is frustrated by a lack of on-the-ground intelligence sources or spotters to help call in air support. All he would say is Canada is “not supporting offensive operations in that area.”
However, international coalition airstrikes there “have helped Kurds to advance on several fronts” in Syria, Forget said, adding Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is “resorting to raids” to push back the Kurdish forces.
When the expansion of Canada’s air campaign into Syria was announced, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadian airstrikes would not be conducted to help Syrian President Bashar Assad, nor would the air force seek Assad’s consent to bomb on Syrian territory.
The Canadian military says there are “gains and tactical losses” in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but overall it claims ISIS has lost the ability to operate in 20-25 per cent of the area it previously controlled.