OTTAWA — Canada will end its bombing missions against Islamic State targets within weeks as it moves to triple the size of its training contingent to assist Iraqi forces on the ground.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday laid out Liberal government’s new approach to combat Islamic State fighters as he announced that Canada will remain engaged until Mar. 31, 2017.
As the Liberals pledged during the election, Trudeau confirmed Monday that the bombing missions by CF-18s will end no later than Feb. 22. However, operations by two surveillance aircraft and an air-to-air refueller jet will continue.
In its place, Canada will triple the number of the military trainers. The military now has 69 trainers on the ground in northern Iraq.
As well, the government will deploy medical personnel to provide training to Iraqi forces in how to treat battlefield casualties.
Canada will also provide weapons — small arms, ammunition and optics — to help with the training of local forces.
The government also announced that it was stepping up its humanitarian aid to assist with the flood of refugees fleeing the violence. Ottawa will earmark $840 million over three years to provide shelter, food, health care and other essentials.
Another $270 million will go towards improving local capacity in education, health, water and sanitation.
The Liberal government said the changes unveiled Monday will see the complement of military personnel dedicated to the mission rise to 830, up from 650 now.
The previous Conservative government dispatched the small team of military trainers to northern Iraq in September 2014. A month later, the Tories announced they were dispatching six CF-18s to begin bombing missions, as well as an air-to-air refueller and two surveillance aircraft to the region to assist in the coalition air campaign.