New Zealand to extend NZDF deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and 3 peacekeeping missions 

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
  • Rt Hon Winston Peters
  • Hon Ron Mark
Prime Minister Defence Foreign Affairs

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, and Defence Minister Ron Mark have announced an extension of the New Zealand Defence Force military training deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a renewal of three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa.

“The decision to deploy defence force personnel overseas is one of the hardest for any government to take, especially when these deployments are to challenging and dangerous environments,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The Government has weighed a number of factors, including carefully considering the risks to our servicemen and women based on advice from the New Zealand Defence Force. The decisions themselves were taken following careful Cabinet deliberations.”

The Iraq deployment will be extended until June 2019, and the Afghanistan deployment will be extended until September 2019.  This allows New Zealand to fulfil its current commitment to both missions.

In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan the Government will be using the coming year to consider all options for New Zealand’s future contributions.

The three peacekeeping missions are to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Golan Heights and Lebanon and the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.

“The Government has decided to continue with our current commitments to three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa, where we have an established presence and proven track record,” Winston Peters said.


“New Zealand has deployed a non-combat training mission to Iraq as part of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition since 2015.

“New Zealand remains firmly committed to international efforts to fight ISIS. Training the Iraqi Security Forces to defeat and prevent the resurgence of ISIS is an important contribution to global peace and security.

“ISIS has also demonstrated its ability to fuel extremist causes and export terror around the globe. We are extremely fortunate not to have experienced a terror attack at home, but our geography does not insulate us from our obligations to support stability and the rule of law internationally.

“The Iraqi Security Forces have made some significant gains. However, it’s clear that ISIS remains a threat, and further support is required to help the Iraqi Security Forces ensure ISIS cannot reassert itself,” Winston Peters said.

“New Zealanders can be proud of the professionalism and hard work demonstrated by our Defence Force personnel. Their efforts have helped to lift the Iraqi Security Forces’ capability, and contributed to their liberating Iraqi territory from ISIS,” Ron Mark said.

“We will be able to scale down our deployment as the Iraqi Security Forces gradually take over responsibility for their own training. Accordingly, the number of personnel will be reduced from 143 to 121 from this November.”

The Government will review the deployment again in early 2019 to assess New Zealand’s options for contributing to stability in Iraq beyond June 2019.  Iraq’s training needs will likely have evolved further by that point and the Government will need to evaluate New Zealand’s ongoing commitments.


New Zealand deploys military trainers to mentor, train and support Afghan Army officers.

“New Zealand’s contribution supports the development and training of the Afghanistan Security Forces, building their ability to counter the Taliban and other extremist groups operating in Afghanistan,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We are working with many international partners, and the Government of Afghanistan, to support the Afghan people and to prevent the country from being used once again as a safe haven for groups that aspire to carry out terrorist attacks.

“This goes beyond teaching military tactics and information and communications technology training skills and includes instilling New Zealand’s unique leadership values and ethos with Army cadets that will go on to hold command positions in the Afghanistan Security Forces.

The Government will conduct a strategic reassessment of New Zealand’s contribution to Afghanistan in 2019.

“The New Zealand Defence Force has made a very significant contribution to peace and stability in Afghanistan since 2001. After nearly twenty years, it is time to assess New Zealand’s longer-term presence there, including alternative military and civilian contributions,” Winston Peters said.

Peacekeeping missions

“New Zealand has a long and proud history of contributions to peacekeeping around the globe,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“International peacekeeping helps contribute to a safer and more secure international environment and New Zealand will continue to play its part.

“By their nature, peacekeeping missions operate in risky and volatile environments. The Government has carefully deliberated over these decisions and has been advised that appropriate measures are in place to keep our peacekeepers safe.”

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) helps promote peace and protect civilians in one of the world’s most challenging conflicts and humanitarian crises. New Zealand currently contributes five NZDF personnel who provide expert support to the UN Mission’s leadership. New Zealand’s deployment has been extended to July 2020.

UNMISS is led by New Zealander David Shearer, who serves as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

New Zealand has consistently contributed to UNTSO – the United Nations’ first peacekeeping mission - since 1954. We currently deploy up to eight unarmed military observers, who help monitor various peace arrangements agreed between Israel and its neighbours. This deployment will be extended by two years to September 2020.

New Zealand’s deployment to the MFO mission in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has also been extended by two years to September 2020. New Zealand deploys up to 28 personnel in a variety of roles to assist in the monitoring of the border between Israel and Egypt.

Ron Mark served in the first tranche of New Zealand peacekeepers sent to establish the MFO in 1982.

“I have seen first-hand the value which New Zealanders can add to peacekeeping missions and the difference these missions make to the safety and security of the region,” Ron Mark said.

“These three deployments are important elements of New Zealand’s global defence engagement and our proud peacekeeping heritage.

More information on NZDF’s peacekeeping deployments can be found at


Iraq Deployment  

  • NZDF personnel are deployed to Iraq to support both the Iraqi Government and the international Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s efforts to rid Iraq of the global terrorist threat posed by ISIS. New Zealand’s deployment was at the invitation of the Iraqi Government.
  • The NZDF first deployed to Iraq in April 2015. The Government has decided to extend this deployment to 30 June 2019.
  • This is a non-combat training mission aimed at upskilling the Iraqi Security Forces to counter the threat posed by ISIS. 
  • Up to 143 personnel are currently deployed on this mission. The majority participate in a joint Australia-New Zealand Building Partner Capacity (BPC) training mission at Taji Military Complex in Iraq (located approximately 30km north of Baghdad).
  • A number of other personnel are deployed in Coalition Headquarters in Baghdad and support roles throughout the region.
  • As the Iraqi Security Forces take greater responsibility for their own training, the NZDF deployment will reduce in number from 143 to 121 from November 2018.
  • Training provided by the NZDF has included: basic weapons skills, individual and unit military skills to prepare for combat operations as well as other skills like medical support, logistics and training on the Laws of Armed Conflict.
  • The joint BPC mission has trained over 37,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, including approximately 4,300 Federal Police.
  • The Government will review the deployment again in early 2019 to assess New Zealand’s options for contributing to stability in Iraq beyond June 2019.  Iraq’s training needs will likely have evolved further by June and the Government will evaluate New Zealand’s ongoing commitments again at that point.
  • The NZDF deployment is complemented by development and humanitarian assistance. Since 2015, New Zealand has provided $3.5 million to the UN Development Programme’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation (FFIS), which finances fast-track initiatives to help recovery and rebuilding in areas liberated from ISIS. Since 2011, New Zealand has contributed $23.5 million to help meet the humanitarian needs of those affected by the violence in Syria.
  • New Zealand has also provided technical demining support to assist the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Iraq and funding to demining specialists working in Iraq. New Zealand has partnered on the ground with the German development agency (GIZ) to support the coordination and delivery of stabilisation activities.

Afghanistan Deployment 

  • The Government has extended the deployment of 11 NZDF trainers at the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy (Officer Academy) for twelve months until 30 September 2019.
  • NZDF trainers first deployed to the Officer Academy in 2013. The Academy is supported by a number of countries and is part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission. There are currently 41 countries contributing to the Resolute Support Mission.
  • The NZDF also has two additional personnel deployed to the NATO Mission Headquarters in Afghanistan.
  • The Officer Academy remains an important part of the NATO mission’s strategy to lift the capability of the Afghan military. The NZDF deployment trains and mentors Army cadets who will go on to hold command positions in the Afghanistan Security Forces. This training contributes to preparing the Afghan military to assume sole responsibility for its own security.
  • Examples of training include military tactics, physical education, English language communication skills and information and communications technology training as well as instilling New Zealand’s unique leadership values and ethos.
  • The Officer Academy has trained over 3,350 Afghan Army Officer Cadets since 2013 (including 147 female graduates).
  • The Government also intends to undertake a strategic reassessment of New Zealand’s contribution to Afghanistan. The reassessment will consider all options for New Zealand’s future contributions to Afghanistan beyond September 2019. This reassessment will be completed by June 2019.
  • Over the last 17 years, over 3,500 New Zealand personnel (including police) have served in Afghanistan through successive deployments and we have contributed almost $NZD100 million of development assistance.
  • Since 2001, there have been 8 NZDF combat deaths in Afghanistan (and ten in total) over the course of New Zealand’s military contribution.
  • New Zealand currently provides USD$2 million to the UN Development Programme-administered Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) which helps fund the Afghanistan police force.

Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) deployment

  • The Government has decided to extend the deployment of up to 28 NZDF personnel to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt for two years until 30 September 2020.
  • New Zealand first joined this mission as a founding member in 1982. Around 2,000 NZDF personnel have served in MFO since its inception.
  • Our current deployment includes drivers, headquarters staff, engineers, support teams, two electricians and a training and advisory team.
  • The MFO was established following the US-sponsored Camp David Accords in 1982. In the 25 years preceding the Accords, Egypt and Israel had been to war three times.
  • The MFO supervises implementation of the security provisions in the Peace Treaty agreed by Egypt and Israel in 1979. The Treaty provisions outline zones within the Sinai and along the Israeli border with limits for Egyptian and Israeli military personnel and platforms. MFO operates checkpoints and observation posts along the international border between the two countries, and conducts patrols throughout the Sinai Peninsula.
  • The MFO is comprised of 12 troop-contributing nations and has a total force of 1150 personnel. Other contributing nations include Australia, Canada, France, Colombia, Czech Republic, Fiji, Italy, Norway, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.

United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) deployment

  • The Government has decided to extend the deployment of up to eight unarmed military observers to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) by two years until September 2020.
  • UNTSO was established in 1948 as the first ever UN peacekeeping mission. New Zealand has contributed to UNTSO since 1954 – making it our longest-standing peacekeeping deployment.
  • UNTSO military observers help to preserve peace and stability through monitoring ceasefires along the borders between Israel and its Arab neighbours: Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria; supervising armistice agreements; preventing isolated incidents from inadvertent escalation and assisting other UN peacekeeping operations in the region to fulfil their respective mandates.
  • Three NZDF military observers are located in the Golan Heights, and four work in Lebanon.
  • Following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, UNTSO was established to assist the supervision of the truce in Palestine. The subsequent 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and its neighbours: Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, required a UN presence, which has remained to the present day.
  • UNTSO comprises 153 military observers from 26 contributing nations. Other contributors include Finland, Ireland, Norway, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.
  • New Zealand has twice held the position of mission Commander. Major-General David Gawn led the mission most recently from 2015-2017.

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) deployment

  • The Government has decided to extend the mandate for three NZDF personnel deployed to leadership roles in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for twenty months until July 2020.
  • These three roles comprise two military liaison officers based in regional centres and an officer in mission headquarters.
  • The NZDF has deployed two other personnel to UNMISS on a fixed-term basis:
  • the Chief of Staff for the mission (mandate expiry in May 2019); and
  • the Military Assistant to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General David Shearer (mandate expiry in July 2020).
  • UNMISS plays a central role in international efforts to address the security and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. The mission focuses on the protection of civilians, monitoring human rights abuses and supporting the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
  • NZDF has contributed to UNMISS since 2012, and prior to South Sudan’s independence New Zealand contributed three personnel to the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) from 2005 to 2011.
  • New Zealander David Shearer leads the mission as the Special Representative of the Secretary General.