ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Canadian forces on Monday said they would expand their operation in Iraq and help rebuild areas of the war-torn country, including the safe removal of landmines.
The Canadian military has been involved in assisting Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their role to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq since 2014.
Canada’s Brigadier-General Daniel MacIsaac said the Canadian military is expanding its operations in Iraq to focus on “rebuilding.”
“It was important to initially help the Iraqi security forces to prepare to help defeat [IS],” MacIsaac toldGlobal News at the Canadian Forces base in Erbil.
“They [Iraqi forces] are much further along in the defeat of [IS],” he added. “We’re working now on some different elements of partner capacity building.”
One of the new initiatives, expected to start before the end of October, will see a team of Canadian military engineers train Iraqi forces on how to safely remove landmines and other booby-traps planted by the militant group.
Many displaced people who have started returning to areas liberated from IS were killed and wounded because of explosives left behind by the extremist group, locals said.
A group of NGOs, including the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) Anti-Explosives Unit, are currently working to defuse and remove explosive devices in liberated areas.
“[The explosives] are deployed on such a scale, it’s almost unfathomable,” NPA’s Craig McInally said.
“We’re talking about kilometers of rows of [explosives], placed in layers around villages, agricultural areas, schools, and homes,” he added.
Meanwhile, MacIsaac said the Canadian military was “monitoring the situation” regarding the escalating tensions between Erbil and Baghdad following the Kurds’ historic referendum.
The Canadian official said troops at the base in Erbil, which is home to about 150 Canadian military personnel, were prepared “to withstand any potential embargoes Iraq or its neighbors” place on Kurdistan.
Although Canada has not openly supported the Kurdish vote, MacIsaac did not indicate that they would remove troops from Erbil despite Baghdad calling on all foreign governments to withdraw their diplomatic missions in Kurdistan.
Source: Kurdistan 24