Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadian military personnel that their efforts have been essential in the “fight” to defeat Islamic militants in Iraq and elsewhere.
He delivered that message at the start of an unexpected, whirlwind visit to Kuwait where many Canadian troops had to relocate about a month ago from Iraq.
Canada has two ongoing operations in Iraq with about 500 soldiers but was forced to suspend them on Jan. 7, days after top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a targeted drone strike by the United States.
One of the missions is through NATO to train Iraqi forces to battle Islamic extremists on their soil, a deployment that is suspended for the time being. The other mission involving special forces has resumed.
“We have been, as a country, essential in the efforts to defeat Daesh,” Trudeau said over the roar of jet engines.
“Essential to the efforts in rebuilding and providing a level of stability for Iraq that will allow us to move forward and not just have a more stable and prosperous region but indeed reduce the impacts of terrorism around the world.”
Canadian troops had been moved to Iraq just hours before Iranian missiles were fired at two Iraqi airbases housing Canadian, American and some coalition soldiers. No one was injured.
Trudeau said Canada needs to “step up” in the Middle East because it is a country that is “so lucky in so many different ways and blessed with the lives we live.”
He said the Canadian perspective and values are essential in helping rebuild the region.
“You step up, you step up everyday far from your loved ones, far from your families because you believe in the values that Canada stands for and you know we need to work hard and yes — fight — to ensure that those values find purchase elsewhere around the world,” said Trudeau, “where people want the same kinds of things that we do: safety, security for their families, opportunities to grow up in a peaceful community and country.”
Trudeau then circulated among the troops, shaking hands.
Trudeau also plans to meet with Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah during his time in Kuwait.
The trip to Kuwait was planned as part of Trudeau’s week long visit to Africa and Germany but was not made public until now because of security concerns.
Trudeau is scheduled to travel to Senegal and Munich following today’s stop in Kuwait.