Canadian special forces in northern Iraq have been helping Kurdish peshmerga fighters by directing coalition airstrikes against Islamic State extremists — work generally considered risky because it means they are close to the battle against the group.

The Canadians' efforts complement those of the United States, which has conducted the vast majority of the airstrikes against the Islamic State group. But in their new role, the Canadians are performing a task that so far the U.S. has been unwilling to do.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has repeatedly said the U.S. would consider directing attacks from the ground.

Brig. Gen. Mike Rouleau, the commander of Canadian special forces, said his soldiers have directed 13 strikes.