As coalition forces continue to converge on the Iraqi city of Mosul, Canadian troops have engaged in several instances of force against Daesh, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighters, according to senior military officials.
“The number of use of force engagements in the past several weeks has been substantial,” said MGen. Michael Rouleau, Commander Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, stated at a press conference on Wed. Nov. 16.
Officials insist, however, that Canada’s mandate remains as an “advise and assist” role and the use of force has been in self-defence, a fact, Rouleau says is “a reality of modern conflict.”
“We have either defended ourselves, defended friendly forces or defend civilians who are caught in the middle and we have done so with kinetic force against Daesh.” added Rouleau.
Canadian troops have exchanged small arms fire and fired mortars at ISIL troops, officials revealed.
Rouleau affirmed during the press conference that CAF troops have the same right to defend themselves, and shoot if necessary, as police officers do in Canada.
The rise of these engagements coincides with the shift of the nature of the Canadian-backed Kurdish fighters’ approach to the conflict, which turned from a defensive to a more offensive stance this past summer as coalition forces, Iraqi Security Forces, and the Kurds try to take back the largely Daesh controlled city of Mosul.
“This shaping has happened, and those operations have gone quite well, in part because, of the tremendous work of CANSOF [Canadian Special Operations Forces], working as part of a wider CAF and coalition effort. Over the past several months and several weeks, in particular, CANSOF has advised and assisted relentlessly and now the government of Iraq is poised at Mosul’s steps,” said Rouleau.
Amid a barrage of repeated questions from the media, officials reiterated during the press conference that they could not confirm the number of incidents nor the body count of Daesh fighters.
However, officials did confirm that no CAF member has been harmed.
The fight for Mosul is ongoing and forces have secured positions to the north and south of the city. Daesh fighters remain primarily in the central part of the city.
According to LGen. Stephen Bowes, Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command, there is nowhere for these fighters to retreat to and they would die fighting than surrender.
“The campaign for Mosul is large-scale, and the coalition expects it will be difficult and it will take time. It is going according to the Iraqi plan and on the Iraqi timeline. The outcome is inevitable, Mosul will be taken back,” said Bowes, also present during the press conference.
Over the past few weeks, Iraqi Security Forces have taken back 56 per cent of the territories controlled by Daesh in Iraq and has cleared more than 100 towns and villages.
As the efforts continue to take back Mosul, Rouleau praised the combined efforts of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurds, amid speculation that there are tensions between the two forces.
“Kurdish security forces and Iraqi security forces have been collaborating extensively. You’re talking about moving brigades and divisions though Kurdish lines, that demands very high levels of complementary. So, what we’re seeing on the ground is not friction, not tension, it’s collaboration and pursuit of a common enemy,” Rouleau.
The CAF continues to support coalition forces indirectly, say officials, through air operations, intelligence and reconnaissance, refueling and tactical aviation for transporting troops and equipment.
The CAF first announced at a press conference in early October that the fighting in northern Iraq had become more dangerous and information on the number of troops and details of the efforts will be withheld for safety and security purposes.
“The mission has changed since the spring. It’s gone from a more defensive posture to a more offensive one,” Brigadier-General Peter Dawe, deputy commander, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, told reporters in October.
Also on Wednesday, the CAF announced that it assumed the lead of the Coalition Role 2 Medical Facility in Northern Iraq. The CAF will contribute 50 military personnel, including command and control personnel, physicians, nurses, medical technicians, laboratory & diagnostic imaging technicians, a dental team, and a full complement of support staff.
“The Canadian Armed Forces continues to provide tangible and valuable contributions to the fight to defeat Daesh. The Coalition Role 2 medical facility plays an important role in supporting Coalition forces fighting to liberate Iraq from Daesh and continues our commitment to the region’s stability,” said BGen. Shane Brennan, Commander Joint Task Force – Iraq.
The hospital is expected to not only treat coalition forces but also civilians and, if necessary, even Daesh fighters.