Top Conservatives say the heroic efforts of Canadian special forces and pilots in Iraq this week prove that airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State must continue.
Maj.-Gen. Charles Lamarre revealed Thursday evening that Canadian commandos in Iraq, sent to train local Kurdish Peshmerga forces, took part in a 17-hour battle against ISIS.
Lamarre also said at a briefing that two Canadian CF-18s eliminated an ISIS fighting position near the occupied city of Mosul.
Conservative foreign affairs critic Tony Clement and defence critic James Bezan. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
The news did not go unnoticed from Tories who have been sharply critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's pledge to withdraw jets from the fight against ISIS and ramp up the training mission.
Tory defence critic James Bezan and foreign affairs critic Tony Clement released a statement Friday arguing the battle "underscores" the need to continue the air combat mission.
"It's clear that the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, including our CF-18 fighter jet pilots, are helping to win the fight against jihadi terrorism, stopping ISIS atrocities, and saving lives," Bezan said in the release.
"This is the very reason why our CF-18 jets have to stay in the fight against ISIS."
Bezan also criticized Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan for not directly mentioning CF-18 pilots or the Royal Canadian Air Force in his initial statement on the incident.
"It appears to be too much for the Liberals to even thank our fighter jet pilots for a job well done," Bezan said, echoing comments he made on Twitter Thursday about the "shameful" oversight.
"It appears to be too much for the Liberals to even thank our fighter jet pilots for a job well done."
Clement called the Liberal plan "completely incoherent," charging that Sajjan has suggested bombing sorties will continue beyond the March deadline set by Parliament.
In an interview with The Huffington Post Canada, Sajjan would commit only to pulling the jets within six months.
"Yesterday was in fact just another in a long list of examples of the success of the mission as currently constructed, including Canadian airstrikes on ISIS," Clement said.
"The government's opposition to CF-18s conducting airstrikes is solely ideological and not based on any policy rationale whatsoever."
Interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose took to Twitter Friday to laud the RCAF and CF-18 pilots, but did not mention the Canadian special forces who helped Kurdish fighters on the ground.
"Let the air mission continue," she wrote.
New Democrats seek immediate end to mission
But as Tories express discontent with the Liberals' promise to bring the jets home, New Democrats are raising concern the Trudeau government may extend the mission.
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison also released a statement Friday, evidently jumping on comments Sajjan made to HuffPost.
"The Liberals told Canadian that they would end the bombing mission immediately — but instead, the Minister is now floating an extension that goes beyond even the Conservatives' March deadline," Garrison said.
He expressed concern Canadian troops were in a day-long battle despite "repeated assurances" their role in the region would be non-combat.
"Canadians deserve to have a clear answer about the government's plans — and they certainly deserve better than extension by stealth," he said.
On the campaign trail, the NDP called for an end to both Canada's bombing and training missions in Iraq and Syria. The party is now demanding the government deliver an immediate plan to stop the airstrikes and promise full parliamentary debate on any new training mission.
With files from The Canadian Press
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