Canada's top general says there's no end in sight in the battle against ISIS, and Canadians should prepare for news of casualties now that Canada has stepped up its mission on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
Gen. Jonathan Vance made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with Rosemary Barton, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, when asked if victory against ISIS should be expected soon.
"I don't think it's in sight, I think we are thinking through the problem, we understand more and more and when you say ISIS, or ISIL or Daesh, it comes in many forms," Vance said.
Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance delivers a speech in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
While the general said he was confident all the right steps were being taken to eventually defeat ISIS in Iraq, action also had to be taken socially and politically to oppose the organization.
"There is a wider effort in the counterterror world that needs to work at defeating this across the board, including countering the messaging seeking those root causes and trying to incentivize people to either leave the fight or not go in the first place," Vance said.
The general noted that all of the intelligence gathering needed prior to deploying new trainers on the ground had been done and he expected the rest of the Canadian trainers to be in theatre by the middle of summer.
Fighting vs. combat
The general said that even though Canada is in a train, advise and assist role, there is a risk of casualties during the mission.
"Canadians need to be prepared for the fact that there will be confrontation, there will be fighting, I am certain of it, there has been already," Vance said. "This represents an expansion of our mission on the ground, so it stands to reason that there will be fighting, and potential casualties as we face this mission."
Vance also had criticism for the way the mission has been debated, saying that it was not useful to argue over whether Operation Impact is a combat or a training mission when the risk to human life was so high.
"If you want to take the word fighting and make that synonymous with combat, fine by me," he said. "The intent of the mission, at the mission level, what's this mission for — it's to train, advise and assist a force."
"When you are using the rules of engagement that allow you to defend yourself and you are fighting, it's combat. But it's not a combat mission. If it was a combat mission we would be doing things very differently," Vance added.
Defence review is in minister's hands
Addressing the government's coming defence review, a sort of white paper on the future of the Canadian military, Vance said the review was done and in the hands of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
The general said he is expecting "a good solid look at the future security environment, what are we facing in the world, and what does Canada want to be able to do in that very same world."
That road map would mean considering what kinds of equipment the Canadian Forces need in the future, what can be refurbished and what equipment was ready for the junkyard.
"There are decisions that we make to extend the life of equipment and that's entirely acceptable. Where I am able to offer advice in confidence to government about where there are limitations, in terms of what we can achieve, and that's also part of the process," he said.
Watch the full interview in the player below