Canada announced Monday that it will pull out of an air coalition bombing Daesh and replace its airplanes with more ground troops.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the jets will cease airstrikes by Feb. 22 and said that while air bombing was important, what happens on the ground will determine the outcome against insurgents.
“It is important to understand that while airstrike operations can be very useful to achieve short-term military and territorial gains, they do not on their own achieve long-term stability for local communities,” Trudeau said from the Canadian capital of Ottawa. “Canadians learned this lesson first-hand during a very difficult decade in Afghanistan, where our forces became expert military trainers renowned around the world.”
While Canadian participation in the coalition airstrikes will end, it will triple the number of Canadian Forces personnel to train ground troops and also beef up the number of troops by 230 that are part of Joint Task Force-Iraq, Trudeau said.
There are now 69 Canadian special forces training Kurds and about 600 other Canadian troops on the ground. The increase will bring the number to roughly 1,000 overall.
The new strategy will be debated in the Canadian House of Commons, which is adjourned until Feb. 16.
The end of the airstrikes was promised by Trudeau’s Liberal Party during the lead up to last fall’s Canadian election, which saw the Liberals sweep to power.
The previous party of Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed to coalition airstrikes until March.
Trudeau discussed the changes with President Barack Obama.
During a telephone call Monday Obama “welcomed Canada’s current and new contributions to coalition efforts and highlighted Canada’s leadership in the coalition,” the White House said.
The “new commitments are indicative of the kind of close relationship that the United States and Canada enjoy, particularly when it comes to our mutual national security”, a White House spokesman told reporters.
As well as increasing training personnel and other troops, Trudeau said earlier that he would step up humanitarian and international development efforts.
While no coalition countries immediately commented on Monday’s announcement, Canadian defense minister Harjit Sajjan later this week will take part in a meeting of NATO’s defense chiefs in Brussels.