Canada is being invited to once again give training to Iraq’s Kurdish security forces, who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Canadian soldiers in the war against the Islamic State group before being frozen out in 2017.
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Iraqi Kurdistan’s top diplomat in Washington, insisted her folks don’t harbour any ill will toward Canada for suspending and later ending a lot of military assistance to the Kurdish military, called the peshmerga.
Prior to that, Canadian special forces had for 3 years trained and advised the Kurds in the defence of their semi-independent region from ISIL before working together to free huge swathes of territory from ISIL’s grasp.
The federal Liberals recently expanded Canada’s military mission in Iraq through 2021, with much of the deal with training Iraqi military forces through NATO and other partnerships.
With ISIL no longer a direct risk to the Kurds, “it’s understandable that some coalition partners have shifted their focus,” Abdul Rahman said in an interview during a recent visit to Ottawa. “So there’s no resentment or anything like that.”
Abdul Rahman also showed the peshmerga would still like millions of dollars in promised Canadian weapons, which have been stuck in limbo since assistance was suspended. She recognized they likely won’t be delivered.
And she expects Canada will follow other countries in upgrading its diplomatic office in the Kurdish capital of Erbil as a part of a broader expansion of ties with the area. Canada has offered foreign aid to guide alleviate a few of these problems, including the provision of services for refugees and internally displaced people, which Abdul Rahman said was welcome.
But she suggested more is required from the international community writ large, such as programs to assist the children of ISIL fighters, many of whom remain caught in camps with little hope for the future and run the risk of being radicalized.
“There isn’t a program that I’m aware of to at least look at the children,” she said.
“It’s things like that that I don’t think are being addressed, neither by the UN or the international coalition nor by national partners who are committed to the enduring defeat of ( ISIL ). Well, the enduring defeat also means looking at the ideology.”