PM poised to extend, expand mission against ISIS

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to expand Canada’s military role in the battle against ISIS fighters in Iraq.

“The current mission was authorized in the fall and that authority comes due fairly shortly,” Harper said during a stop at a Mississauga manufacturing plant on Wednesday.

“Next week, it is the government’s plan to move forward with the request to Parliament for an extension and expansion of the mission.”

The prime minister did not clarify what he meant by an “expansion” of the mission, which had been set to end April 7.

Announced last fall, Canada’s military effort in Iraq — named Operation Impact — was to be an advisory mission, one that would not place Canadian soldiers on the front line. Canadian troops are offering instruction to Kurdish soldiers fighting against the Islamic State.

Six CF-18 Hornet fighter jets, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft and one C-150 refuelling aircraft have been stationed in Kuwait City since Oct. 30. About 600 Canadian soldiers are also stationed there in a support role.

The mission has already claimed the life of one Canadian soldier.

Sgt. Andrew Doiron was killed March 6 in a friendly-fire incident in Iraq. He was shot by Kurdish Peshmerga troops.

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray said in an e-mail that her party “cannot speculate about a motion that has not been presented to Parliament.”

“What we do know is that this prime minister has not been open and honest about what our troops are mandated to do in Iraq,” Murray said.

The Liberal Party believes “Canada does have a role to play in the international effort against ISIL,” she added.

Meanwhile, the NDP insisted that Canadians should receive “clear answers” on future plans for Canadian troops in Iraq.

NDP defence critic Jack Harris called it “very disturbing” to see a mission that was supposed to be a “month-long ‘advise and assist’ deployment in Iraq” turn into a “potentially year-long or more conflict where Canadian troops are on the front lines exchanging fire with ISIL.”

“And now the prime minister is openly considering an expansion of the mission to Syria just weeks before our mandate is up,” he said in a statement.