Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan thinks that the Canadian military needs to “look wider” than Syria and Iraq when it comes to fighting ISIS, and is examining potential threats in the Sinai peninsula and Libya.
“Ever since the Halifax security conference, I’ve been talking about we need to look wider than the current threats that we face in Syria and Iraq and this is very important that we get this right. But we have to be ready for future threats,” said Sajjan in a conference call with reporters Monday morning.
“We need to start looking at threats at an early stage.”
Canadian troops in Cairo are facing “an evolving situation” and “potential threats” in the Sinai, he said. Approximately 70 Canadian Forces personnel are in Egypt as part of a longstanding United Nations peacekeeping operation in the region, supervising the 1979 treaty between Israel and Egypt.
The Canadian government is also looking at Libya as a potential trouble zone, he said.
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“Libya is a situation that needs to be finished, where a vacuum was created after the decisions that were made to intervene against Gaddafi.” Canada was involved in the multi-national military operation in Libya in 2011 that resulted in the death of Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya and other regions are being examined to get a better understanding of the threat, said Sajjan, “So that we don’t allow certain problems to get even worse.”
According to media reports, Britain is examining the possibility of military action in Libya. Sajjan met the British Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, in London on Dec. 17, and according to a press release, the two discussed Canada’s involvement in the coalition against ISIS.
“There certainly seems to be movement with respect to some sort of peacekeeping force or training force to emerge in Libya,” said George Petrolekas, a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
“When we’re talking about ISIS, we focus on Syria but in fact the ISIS footprint is far larger so I suspect that the government is fact-finding where it can best contribute given how wide that ISIS footprint is.”
Conservative defence critic James Bezan said that the Liberal plan for fighting ISIS is unclear, and the minister’s musings are contributing to the confusion. “I don’t know if Canadians are prepared to move troops into a Libya situation. We’d have to know what we would be doing there.”
“The traditional peacekeeping role is not an option in Libya at this point in time, as it is not an option in Iraq or Syria,” he said. “We have to first of all defeat ISIS and take back the territory that they’ve captured. And remove that threat from not only the region and also the threat that they represent on a global basis, including in Canada.”
With files from Global News’ Vassy Kapelos