Coming summer big test for Iraqi government post-ISIL: Canadian commander

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OTTAWA — Canada’s top commander in the war against the Islamic State group believes the coming months are a critical time for Iraq to finally turn the page on years of fighting and bloodshed.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Brig.-Gen. Colin Keiver says while ISIL has been defeated as a military force over the past year, that does not mean the end of the fight for Iraq.

Rather, Keiver says the battle now is political: whether Iraqi leaders can set aside their differences and begin addressing the numerous challenges that led to ISIL’s rise five years ago.

Those include providing basic services such as water and electricity, cracking down on corruption and stopping ethnic and religious discrimination.

Keiver, who is returning to Canada after nearly a year commanding the 850-strong Canadian mission in the region, says there are signs of progress, such as Iraqi-government and Kurdish security forces working together for the first time.

But he says it is too early to tell whether Iraq will be able to move past its troubles — or whether longstanding grievances will return and contribute to ISIL’s resurgence or the emergence of a new threat.