Canada says it will extend and expand its military operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) as the Baghdad government announced it had slowed its offensive against militants in the country.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday that he will ask Parliament to include Syria in the military’s involvement in a global coalition against ISIL.
Canada’s participation (of military personnel to train Kurdish anti-ISIL forces) in the coalition was initially for six months and is meant to expire in April.
In October, Canadian fighter jets based in Kuwait joined Jordan, the UAE, the US and other members of the coalition in air raids against ISIL positions in Iraq.
“Next week it is the government’s plan to move forward with a request for Parliament for extension and expansion of the mission. I will obviously give more details when we do that,” Harper told reporters.
Iraq may need that extension.
On Friday, Iraqi military leaders admitted that their much publicized offensive to recapture cities seized by ISIL last summer may have ground to a halt.
The operation to recapture Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin province, which began on March 2, met with initial success as over 20,000 Iraqi soldiers backed by pro-Iranian Shia militia liberated several towns to the south and east of the city.
But by March 15, the offensive began to slow as the soldiers ran into heavily booby-trapped roads and civilian areas into Tikrit.
“The battle to retake Tikrit will be difficult because of the preparations (ISIL) made,” Shia militia leader Jawwad al-Etlebawi told AFP.
The Iraqi military says it is waiting for reinforcements before continuing the operation to move into central Tikrit and dislodge the hundreds of ISIL fighters there.
But the stall has some wondering whether the military could liberate Mosul, the Iraq’s second largest city and the ultimate target to remove ISIL from the country.
The battle to retake Tikrit was billed as the first phase in a larger offensive to eventually liberate Mosul, which fell to ISIL in June.
US military commanders had earlier said that the Iraqi military was not yet ready to begin anti-ISIL offensives.
According to US officials, Iraq has not asked for coalition air power to assist with the liberation of Tikrit.
Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has been careful to say that the offensive and promised victory is an entirely Iraqi affair.
The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies.