Canada help­ing se­cure Jor­dan, Le­banon borders

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS -

OT­TAWA — Cana­dian sol­diers have been qui­etly help­ing Jor­dan and Le­banon se­cure their borders amid fears of Is­lamic State fight­ers slip­ping from Iraq and Syria to launch at­tacks in Europe and North Amer­ica.

Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say the Cana­di­ans are not ac­tu­ally work­ing on the borders, but oth­er­wise won’t say how many troops are in Jor­dan and Le­banon or where they are lo­cated, cit­ing op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity.

Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah ref­er­enced the ef­forts to strengthen his coun­try’s borders, dur­ing a news con­fer­ence with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in Ot­tawa on Tues­day.

Much of Canada’s as­sis­tance has come in the form of equip­ment for the Jor­da­nian and Le­banese mil­i­taries, in­clud­ing trucks, cold-weather gear and ba­sics such as barbed wire.

But Cana­dian troops have also trained lo­cal forces in some ad­vanced com­bat skills, such as how to call airstrikes onto en­emy tar­gets.

The sup­port has largely fo­cused on help­ing those coun­tries se­cure their borders with Iraq and Syria, where ISIL con­tin­ues to pose a threat de­spite its re­cent mil­i­tary losses.

Le­banon shares a bor­der with Syria to the east, while Jor­dan has a bor­der with Syria to the north and Iraq to the east.

“It’s a very open bor­der. It’s ba­si­cally a desert that I could qual­ify as por­ous. It’s not a wall or any­thing con­tin­u­ous,” Col. David Ab­boud, the top Cana­dian sol­dier in Jor­dan, said in an in­ter­view.

“It’s rel­a­tively dif­fi­cult for any coun­try to de­fend an open bor­der in the desert and try to pre­vent smug­gling and ter­ror­ists from go­ing through on any given day or time.”

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has long been con­cerned about ISIL fight­ers en­ter­ing and leav­ing Iraq and Syria, but fears of an ex­o­dus have in­creased as the group faces im­mi­nent mil­i­tary de­feat.

The big­gest fear for coun­tries such as Canada is that ci­ti­zens who joined ISIL as for­eign fight­ers will slip back to their na­tive lands and launch ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials said last year about 180 peo­ple with con­nec­tions to Canada were sus­pected of con­duct­ing ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity abroad; half of them were be­lieved to be in Iraq and Syria.

But even bring­ing the fight to coun­tries such as Jor­dan and Le­banon, in the form of ter­ror cells or massed at­tacks, has the po­ten­tial to cause re­gional chaos and in­sta­bil­ity.

“We’re here to en­hance the Jor­da­nian armed forces’ ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity so that they are bet­ter able to con­front this very dan­ger­ous threat that is Daesh,” Ab­boud said, us­ing ISIL’s Ara­bic name. “So just to the north of Jor­dan, across its bor­der to Syria, and to the east, across its bor­der to Iraq.”

Cana­dian mil­i­tary per­son­nel are ex­pected to re­main in Jor­dan and Le­banon un­til March 2019.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau walks with King Ab­dul­lah ll of Jor­dan in Ot­tawa on Tues­day.

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