OTTAWA — The Iraqi government wants the U.S., Canada and other coalition countries involved in the campaign against Islamic State forces to step up their bombing.
Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has gone on the attack again in three different locations in the country over the last several days. Just last week Canadian military officers said the extremist group, which has seized large parts of Iraq, had been blunted and was on its “back foot.”
Brig.-Gen. Dan Constable, who commands Joint Task Force Iraq, told journalists at that time that ISIS has failed to launch any offensives or large-scale pushes on the ground. As a result, he said, the militant force was on its back foot.
The term “back foot” is a familiar one, once used by Canadian officers to describe how the Taliban in Afghanistan were on the verge of defeat.
But on Thursday, Navy Capt. Paul Forget of Canadian Joint Operations Command acknowledged to reporters that ISIS had gone on the offensive in a number of locations. He did not know why that was but noted that ISIS’s actions will make its forces prone to attacks from CF-18 fighter jets.
“The fact they have taken the offensive has forced them to expose themselves more, thus allowing our fighters to detect them on the ground and engage them accordingly,” he explained.
Forget said he was aware of the Iraqi request provided to the coalition to increase the number of bombing raids. Canada, he said, is continually reassessing what it can contribute to the U.S.-led coalition.
Johanna Quinney, spokeswoman for Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, stated in an email that Canada is one of many countries involved in the air strike campaign. “Our ongoing contribution continues to be evaluated based on coalition needs,” she noted.
‘Until now our feeling is that the international support is not convincing’
The operations involving CF-18s and other aircraft in Iraq “demonstrate our firm resolve to address the threat of terrorism and stand by our allies in the fight against ISIL,” Quinney added.
On Tuesday Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi met with retired general John Allen, the U.S. special envoy who is co-ordinating coalition war efforts.
Abadi’s office later issued a statement requesting the coalition “increase the tempo of the effective air strikes on Islamic State positions.” It also called on the alliance’s training campaign for Iraqi security forces to be further expanded.
Speaker of the Iraqi parliament Selim al-Jabouri delivered a similar message to Allen.
“Until now our feeling is that the international support is not convincing,” Jabouri told Reuters on Wednesday. “We might see participation here or there, but it is not enough for the tough situation we are passing through.”
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Iraqi analysts say that ISIS has endured months of U.S.-led airstrikes but has lost little of the territory it had seized earlier in the year. Islamic State, supported by some Iraqi-Sunni tribes upset by their treatment at the hands of the Shia-dominated central government, had taken control of large areas of Iraq.
The situation now is seen as a stalemate by a number of security experts in Iraq.
U.S. Lt.-Gen. James Terry, who commands American forces fighting ISIS, has said it will “at least take a minimum of three years” to reach a turning point against insurgent forces.
There are 600 Canadian military personnel involved in the Iraq mission. Those include a small number of special forces in northern Iraq and aircrew in Kuwait who are supporting and operating six CF-18 fighter jets, two CP-140 Aurora reconnaissance aircraft and a CC-150 Polaris in-air refuelling tanker.
The government has committed Canada to the Iraq mission for six months but it is expected that it will be extended.