Federal opposition divided over Iraq mission as troops remain hunkered down

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OTTAWA — Federal opposition parties are divided over whether Canada should press ahead with its five-year-old mission in Iraq or start bringing home its soldiers, some of whom were forced to take cover last week from Iranian ballistic missiles.

The mission includes about 200 troops training local forces through NATO to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, as well as a similar number of special-forces soldiers working with specialized Iraqi counter-terror units through the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition.

The Liberal government suspended both parts of the mission and relocated some troops to Kuwait last week over escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, but wants to get things going again once the security situation in Iraq improves.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan says his party supports Canada’s ongoing involvement in Iraq and the fight against ISIL, which continues to pose a threat to the West despite having lost much of its territory and strength over the past five years.

NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris, however, says while his party supports the NATO mission, it wants the special-forces mission to end, partly because of long-standing questions about what the special forces are doing and the unpredictability of U.S. President Donald Trump.

New Democrats also want the Liberal government to recall the House of Commons early to debate the future of Canada’s involvement in Iraq, rather than waiting until the scheduled return of MPs on Jan. 27.