While the friendly fire incident that led to the death of Canadian soldier Sgt. Andrew Doiron was "a mistake, obviously," Canada's top soldier says it likely won't damage the relationship between Canada and the Kurds.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since news of Doiron's death, Chief of Defence Staff General Tom Lawson confirmed "a couple of investigation teams [are] heading over there" to look into what happened near the Kurdish front lines in Iraq.
"They [Canadian soldiers] had been there earlier in the day, and had set this meeting up for later that evening, and something went wrong, and we're going to get to the bottom of that," he said.
Lawson also seemed to brush aside the claim made by a Kurdish official over the weekend that it was the Canadians, and not the Kurds, who were to blame for the deadly mishap that killed Doiron and left three of his fellow soldiers injured.
"I'm sorry that's their assessment at this point," he said. "I think that the Kurds that we work with in that region have far better idea of what took place there."
Forces have 'tremendous partnership'
He added that he didn't think it would hurt the working relationship between Canadian and Kurdish troops.
Doiron and the other injured soldiers were with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, which is training Iraqi and Kurdish forces to battle fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"Although there was some awkward statements made, and we would really rather that they had not been made until an investigation is done, we've seen this tremendous partnership grow from six months ago, when our fellas went in there — we've seen the results being Kurds who are very, very effective in bringing pressure to bear against ISIL," Lawson said.
"There is a friendship, and a professional admiration that grows between the two groups, and that's what we want to build on."
He also discounted the suggestion that Doiron's death could jeopardize the anticipated extension of the mission.
"The government has already indicated openly that it will not — [that] this was a friendly fire incident … not combat, and that the strategic reasons for being there remain in place."
Meanwhile, retired Colonel Tony Battista told CBC News host Suhana Meharchand that it will fall to the two investigations currently underway to determine the facts, as well as how to move forward.
'No reason' to doubt
"Whether it's friendly fire, fratricide or an act of war, we all understand that the death or injuries of any of our fellow soldiers … is unacceptable," said Battista, who is now executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.
"I have no reason to believe the Canadian version that we've heard so far is in doubt," he added.
"After all… the unit of special forces soldiers did, according to our sources, provide adequate information to the Kurdish forces [as to] where they were … coming back from the various checkpoints."
He also doesn't believe Doiron's death will have any "direct effect" on the debate over extending the mission.
"The Canadian government would want to continue providing our support to a U.S.-led coalition against this extremist group, and Canadians, in general, would agree with that," he said.
"The fact of the matter is that we've lost one of our own, and these discussions, these sensitivities, are natural."
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