Government extends Iraq deployment

  • Gerry Brownlee

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says Cabinet has today agreed to extend New Zealand’s contribution to the joint New Zealand-Australia mission to train Iraqi Security Forces until November 2018.

Also agreed was an amendment to the mission’s mandate to allow small numbers (generally around six to eight at a time) of our training and force protection team at Taji to travel for short periods to Besmaya, a secure training location about 52 kilometres south east of Taji.

“At Besmaya our troops will ensure a smooth hand-over of the Iraqi soldiers they’ve been training at Taji to other coalition trainers, who will be teaching them to use heavy weapons,” Mr Brownlee says.

Finally, Cabinet has also agreed in principle that New Zealand personnel be authorised to provide training to stabilisation forces, such as the Iraqi Federal Police, in addition to the Iraqi Army.

“These forces are providing an essential role in securing cities once they have been liberated from Daesh so rebuilding can occur,” Mr Brownlee says.

“To date this has been a successful mission, and the value we’re providing the Iraqi Security Forces to rid their country of Daesh is increasing all the time.

“There is no doubt our troops’ service is valued by the Iraqi Government, its military leaders, and the troops we’re training.

“Our armed forces are extremely good at this sort of work, and this is having a tangible effect on the Iraqi Army’s ability to take and hold ground from Daesh.

“So it makes sense to continue doing something that adds value to the likelihood of Iraqi peace and security in the future, and to amend our mission to meet the changing environment in Iraq.”

To date, around 7000 Iraqi Security Force personnel have been trained by the Australia-New Zealand mission at Taji, including around 975 officers who have graduated from four junior leadership courses.

Mr Brownlee says our deployment in Iraq and work with the Iraqi Army sits alongside our diplomatic, development and humanitarian commitments.

Today’s decisions will not change the number of troops deployed to Iraq, with up to 143 troops mandated for the mission.  At present around 105 NZDF personnel and some 300 Australian Defence Force troops are deployed to Iraq’s Camp Taji.

“Cabinet is comfortable that there are appropriate security measures in place at Taji and Besmaya, and for transiting between the two bases, to protect our personnel from a range of risks.

“These measures are constantly reviewed and updated to reflect the threat environment,” Mr Brownlee says.