ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Coalition and its partners need to address the causes for the rise of the so-called Islamic State and ensure that the group does not re-emerge, a Canadian official said on Wednesday.
Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan made the comments ahead of meetings with other defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 13 and 14.
Sajjan said the officials would “discuss some of the great work that has been done” over the years in the fight against the Islamic State, as well as ways to “move forward on some of the work as defense ministers.”
The Canadian minister also commented on his nation’s chief position in NATO’s new training mission in Iraq.
“Canada is very proud to be taking on the leadership role of the NATO training mission,” Sajjan told Kurdistan 24 Correspondent Barzan Hassan. “We’ve done some great—really good work as part of the counter-Da’esh [ISIS], not only the working group but the larger coalition.”
NATO’s new mission in Iraq was launched at the Brussels summit last July. It reflects the efforts of US President Donald Trump to have US allies bear more of the burden of common defense.
The mission builds on past NATO efforts to train Iraqi forces as they work to prevent the re-emergence of the Islamic State and other militant groups. Led by Canada, the non-combat mission includes hundreds of trainers and also involves setting up military schools to increase the professionalism of Iraqi forces.
“I’m very proud of the work that the Iraqi Security Forces have also done where we’ve been able to eliminate almost all of the territory that has been held, but a lot of work remains,” Sajjan affirmed.
“We need to make sure that the Iraqi Security Forces have the right capacity and ability to train, and this is where the NATO training mission is going to play a very important role in this regard.”
The Canadian defense minister underlined that the coalition and its partners must analyze what caused the emergence of the Islamic State and address “some of those root causes as well.”
Speaking to reporters during a press conference on Wednesday, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the US Ambassador to NATO, said Washington was “committed” to the lasting defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“We are very much committed to the killing of ISIS in Syria or in Iraq or anywhere that it is, Afghanistan as well,” Hutchison told Kurdistan 24.
“ISIS is a terrorist network that must be eradicated and America is committed to doing that.”
Claus Hjort Frederiksen, Denmark’s Defense Minister, said the fight against the Islamic State would continue even after its military defeat in Iraq and Syria.
“Of course, you can see that the [ISIS] caliphate is defeated as a state or geographic area. But the struggle will continue,” Frederiksen told Kurdistan 24. “ISIS is now changing its tactics, going underground, mixing in with the population.”
The Danish defense minister called for “a long-term continuation” of efforts by the coalition and its partners to deny the Islamic State a chance to re-emerge.
We cannot allow the Islamic State to get “a peaceful situation where they can rebuild and reconstruct their organization. We have to have pressure on them all the time,” he concluded.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Barzan Hassan)