TORONTO (AP) — Canada is sending between 50 to 100 military advisers to Iraq as part of an effort to bolster Iraqi forces against Islamic militants after a request from President Barack Obama.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday they will join the U.S. in advising Iraq on how to enable security forces in the northern part of the country to be more effective against the threat posed by the group that calls itself the Islamic State.
Harper, speaking at the NATO summit in Wales, said Canada and its allies are increasing concerned about the barbaric acts of the Islamic militants. He said Canada will look at further steps to respond to the threat as allies come up with a plan.
"If left unchecked this lawless area will become a training ground for international terrorists and an even greater threat to Canada and its allies," Harper said.
Harper said the mission is not without risk but will not be a combat mission. Canada's initial deployment will be for a period of up to 30 days and will be reassessed after that time. Harper said Obama made the request.
U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes tweeted the "US welcomes PM Harper's announcement that Canada will send military advisers to Iraq as part of our effort to support Kurdish forces."
Canada's former Liberal government refused a request to send troops when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, straining ties between the two neighbors. Canada then stepped up its mission Afghanistan as part of an effort to repair ties with Washington.
A senior government official said the mission will include 50 to 100 military advisers from a special operations military unit. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Canada's contribution is in addition to the two Canadian military cargo planes that are ferrying weapons to Kurdish fighters.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird visited the front lines in Iraq this week. The Harper government said opposition leaders in Canada are being briefed on this decision.