ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) announced on Wednesday that Major-General Dany Fortin has been selected to lead the new NATO mission in Iraq.
Launched at the Brussels summit in July, the mission builds on past NATO efforts to train Iraqi forces as they work to prevent the re-emergence of the Islamic State (IS) and other militant groups. Led by Canada, NATO’s non-combat mission will include hundreds of trainers and will also involve setting up military schools to increase the professionalism of Iraqi forces.
“NATO will only train members of the Iraqi Security Forces under the direct control of the Government of Iraq. Some Allies conduct training for Peshmerga forces outside the NATO framework,” a spokesperson for NATO told Kurdistan 24.
During a July 12 press conference at the Brussels summit, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed to a Kurdistan 24 reporter that the Peshmerga were indeed being included in the new NATO mission in Iraq.
“So, NATO Allies and the Coalition provide training for Peshmerga and for the government forces. NATO as an Alliance is providing training for the government forces,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference in June.
Canada, in the past, promised to give 9.5 million Canadian dollars worth of military equipment to help Kurdish forces to fight against IS.
However, the weapons never arrived, due to opposition from Baghdad and Canada’s ambivalent policies following the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, held in September. Other NATO countries and the US-led coalition continued to provide weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga forces through the controversy caused by the referendum.
According to Daniel Bouthillier, a spokesperson for the DND, these weapons are still in Montreal.
“The lethal equipment that has been acquired to date is currently safely stored in Canada at the 25 Canadian Forces Supply Depot in Montréal, QC [Quebec],” he told Kurdistan 24.
“This Supply Depot is run by the Canadian Materiel Support Group, which is responsible for providing operational-level support through the delivery of materiel and assigned logistics services to the [Canadian Armed Forces] CAF and the DND,” he added.
He also confirmed there are no specific plans to deliver these weapons to Peshmerga forces, or to Ukraine, as some Canadian conservatives were arguing for in May.
“As is the case for any CAF operation, our contributions are constantly under assessment in order to ensure all appropriate strategic and tactical steps are taken,” he said.
“Canada also has a responsibility to ensure any provisions of equipment and small arms such aid is provided under the right conditions,” he continued, adding, “No specific delivery plans have been made by Canada as we continue examining our options.”
According to Alan Mohtadi, the head of T&S Consulting Energy and Security, which has advised companies working in the Kurdish oil and gas sector, the NATO mission will not affect current support of the US-led coalition against IS for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
“Most of the support is from US-led coalition and it’s not a NATO lead coalition but a coalition led by US. This support will not be affected as long as ISIS (IS) is still a threat,” he said.
Moreover, he added that the coalition and some European countries are working to integrate all Peshmerga forces.
Editing by John J. Catherine