Iraq mission extended

Gerry Brownlee announced:

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.

This is a broken promise, but the right thing to do. Circumstances have changed, and we would lose credibility to bail out of at the end of the two year mission. The Islamic State needs to have their territory removed from them, as it is territory that gives them credibility. It is important that the forces they battle be local residents, not outsiders. NZ has played a small but useful role in training the Iraqi Army. and so far the training has worked. They have recaptured significant cities and territory from .

The mission is not without risk, and we may suffer casualties.  But far far more people will die if Islamic State is left in control of the territory they have.

The Herald reports Andrew Little as saying:

Labour leader Andrew Little says he will withdraw New Zealand troops from Iraq if his party is elected to power next year.

Mr Little said he expected the security situation in the Middle East to change significantly by the general election, by which time the Islamic State may have been pushed back further or defeated.

But regardless Little says NZ will do nothing to help defeat Islamic State. It is worth recalling that the intervention in Iraq has a Security Council authorisation, and the support of the Iraqi Government. It is against a clear evil that has spread terror in scores of countries. Yet Labour is still against NZ doing anything to defeat ISIL.

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