Canada withdrawal will not hinder battle against Isis, US insists

Justin Trudeau’s announcement that Canada will cease involvement in bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq greeted with resignation in US

The news that Canada would stop participating in coalition air strikes against Islamic State in Syria struck like a thunderbolt in Ottawa on Tuesday. But, in Washington, the announcement that prime minister-elect Justin Trudeau would keep a campaign pledge to end Canadian participation was met with a shrug.

In his first news conference after his election victory, Trudeau said he had spoken with Barack Obama: “I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how important Canada’s role is to play in the fight against Isil, but he understands the commitments I’ve made about ending the combat mission.”

Despite the close alliance between Canada and the United States, American politicians were confident that the war effort against Isis would not be hindered.

In a statement, Devin Nunes, the chair of the House intelligence committee, told the Guardian: “Canada’s withdrawal from the bombing campaign won’t have a large effect on our military operations against Isis.”

Nunes added that, in his opinion: “The problem is not a lack of willing participants, it’s that the Obama administration has no coherent strategy to win this fight.

“Our campaign of limited airstrikes has not significantly impeded Isis or kept malign powers like Russia and Iran from spreading their influence, and the administration seems either unwilling or incapable of correcting our course of action.”

Senator John McCain, the chair of the Senate armed services committee, shared this insouciance about the announced withdrawal of Canadian armed forces.

“I think it’s a result of an election,” McCain said. “That’s a commitment [Justin Trudeau] made in his campaign. I regret it, but that’s what elections are about.”

However, not everyone in Washington was willing to write off Canada’s contributions. In a press conference on Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted to reporters that Canada has “made an important contribution thus far, and we’re obviously deeply appreciative of them lending their talent and skill and expertise to that effort”.

He expressed the Obama administration’s hope “that they’ll continue to play that important role that they’ve played thus far”.

Canada currently has approximately 600 air force personnel deployed in Iraq to combat Isis, and Canadian aircraft have conducted 1,637 sorties. Trudeau has not yet set out a timeline for the withdrawal.


Ben Jacobs in Washington DC

The GuardianTramp

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