Canada will lead new training mission for Iraq: NATO Secretary

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The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced that Canada will expand our leadership role by assuming command of a new North Atlantic Treaty Organisation training and capacity building mission in Iraq for its first year. Trudeau informed that Canada would contribute CF-18 fighter aircraft to help guard Baltic airspace and would also provide assistance to Latvia in cyber-defense.

"Our first - and really our only consideration - was what served the Canadian national interest, what served Canadians, what was appropriate to do for Canada given our role in the world and the very great interest we, as Canadians, have in a functioning, rules-based global order", Freeland said.

Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis said that despite the great distance separating the two countries, cooperation between Canada and Latvia is a lot better than is the case with plenty of countries that are a lot closer to each other.

But this will be the first time a NATO-led operation in Iraq will be under Canadian command.

The 2018 NATO Summit took place in Belgium on Wednesday. He wrote Trudeau ahead of the summit expressing "growing frustration" with the fact the two per cent target is still not being met by the majority of alliance nations.

But critics have noted that even with the increase, Canadian defence spending will top out at 1.4 per cent of GDP, and it's unclear to what degree extending an existing mission will satisfy Trump's demands for Canada and others to put up more cash.

Trudeau said Canada will not double its defence budget to get to that mark.

"Once all national procedures have been completed to finalize the name agreement, the country will join NATO as our 30th member", NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. The commitment was part of the alliance's expansion of the number of trainers from around a dozen now to several hundred operating out of the capital, Baghdad.

"My message is that we are actually now stepping up", Stoltenberg said. Canada leads the mission, known as Operation Reassurance, which includes troops from Albania, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. An earlier version said defence spending in Canada as a percentage of GDP was higher in 2018 than in 2017.

France, meanwhile, is expected to pledge this week that it will meet the two per cent spending target within the next seven years, while Germany says it will reach 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2024.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story.