01/09/2015 07:24 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Canada's top soldier says mission to Iraq "very successful" so far

CALGARY - The head of the Canadian Armed Forces says Canada's mission in Iraq against what he calls "heinous individuals" has been successful so far.

The Canadian military joined the international campaign in October. It has been providing air support to help dislodge the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant from territory it seized last summer.

"They've conducted over 300 sorties aimed at degrading the fighting capabilities of this brutal terrorist organization," Gen. Tom Lawson told a Calgary audience Friday.

"You're going to have to define what success looks like but the first part, the reason they were there — to blunt the attack of ISIL against men and women and innocents on the ground in Iraq — is to this point very successful."

A decision to extend the air mission against ISIL, which is due to end in April, has not been made. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said recently that when the time comes, one of the criteria will be "the kind of risk it poses to our country.''

Lawson, who said he will visit Canadian troops in Kuwait in the next couple of weeks, did not give his opinion on whether the mission should be extended.

He said Canadian CF-18s fighter jets will continue doing what they do best.

"We are over in Iraq right now delivering weaponry on the heads of some of the most heinous individuals that this earth has ever seen," he said in a speech to the Royal Alberta United Services Institute.

Lawson was asked about the need to bolster Canada's Arctic sovereignty in light of increased aggression by Russia over the ownership of the north.

He said the costs of operating in the Arctic are high and present a tremendous challenge.

"How do we, who have been so aggressive talking about our claims to the Arctic, how do we back that up?" Lawson said.

"These are some of the most difficult operations we are ever part of. To deploy into Europe or to deploy to Kuwait is much, much easier than to get all of our equipment and head up to just north of 60."

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