Canada to host anti-ISIL meeting as Ottawa weighs future of Iraq mission


OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will gather with representatives from a dozen countries at an idyllic estate outside Ottawa on Thursday to discuss the next steps in the war against ISIL and the future of Iraq and Syria.

The meeting, which Sajjan is co-hosting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, comes as the federal government is weighing Canada’s future role in the region.

A recent U.S. Defense Department report said ISIL appears to be morphing from a group aiming to control territory into an effective insurgency and there are fears it could be decades before Iraqis are able to fight it on their own.

Canada earlier this year deployed 250 troops and assumed command of a NATO mission whose aim is to train the Iraqi military so that it can ensure security.

The question facing the government is what to do with hundreds of other Canadian Forces members in Iraq and the region, whose mission is set to expire at the end of the March.

Those members have been flying transport and refuelling aircraft, collecting and analyzing intelligence and providing medical assistance in support of U.S. and allied forces fighting ISIL.

The Canadian Press