Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi went on state television to announce that the Battle of Mosul was finally starting.
“Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh,” al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
While Canada pulled its fighter aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition earlier this year, the Canadian Forces still pull its share on the ground. Providing vital support to Peshmerga fighters through “advise-and-assist” operations, Canada has boots on the ground and is actively taking part in the battle.
As a matter of fact, soldiers from the Canadian Special Operation Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) are working alongside their Kurdish counterparts against ISIL. Deemed a non-combat mission, CANSOFCOM soldiers are constantly moving near the frontline to monitor the progress of the recently trained Peshmerga fighters.
According to brigadier-general Peter Dawe, deputy commander of CANSOFCOM, the mission on the ground has evolved from defensive to offensive operations. Due to that Canadian operator on the ground often have to exchange fire with ISIL combatants to defend themselves and their allies.
“We are more engaged on the line – there should be no doubt about that – and, by extension, the risk has increased to our troops simply by virtue of time spent at the line and the work we’re doing now in a more dynamic and fluid environment,” Brig-Gen. Dawe said.
During the last few months, Dawe confirmed no Canadian soldiers were wounded even with the recent augmentation of confrontation with ISIL fighters.
Canadian Forces’ participation in the Battle of Mosul
Having conducted successful operations in the past, the Kurdish Peshmerga are now actively taking part in the battle of Mosul. That said, it is pretty obvious their Canadian advisers are also taking part in the battle. However, the Canadian soldiers are most likely playing a supporting role such as guiding U.S.-led coalition aircraft, assisting in medical evacuation and by providing a liaison between the Peshmerga and Western forces.
Recently deployed to replace the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron (SOAS), pilots and ground crew of the 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron will also take part in the battle of Mosul. Based in Valcartier, Quebec, the 430th is equipped with CH-146 Griffon helicopters and will provide reconnaissance, troops and equipment transport, and will assist in the evacuation of wounded soldiers.
Although Canada is indirectly taking part in the battle of Mosul, its contribution still remains important to the success of the operation. Adding to the ground troops and helicopters, Canada still have a CP-140 Aurora providing intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISR) and a CC-150 Polaris for refuelling purposes to the U.S.-led coalition.
Canada is also getting ready to deploy and operate a field hospital equipped with two operating rooms (OR) in the region to treat wounded allied soldiers. Our medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopters will have the ability to extract the wounded soldiers to a Canadian-led field hospital, increasing interoperability between the two elements.
It is my understanding that even if the Trudeau government has been constantly stating there was no combat mission being conducted in Iraq, Canadian soldiers are still moving on the frontline. That said, as a combat veteran of Afghanistan who spent several months embedded with the Afghan National Army, I know vital it is for the success of the operation to have the CANSOFCOM operators on the frontline along the Peshmerga to show our willingness to fight alongside them. By doing so, the Canadian soldiers are earning respect and their working relationship with the Peshmerga is much better.