Feilding Herald

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Government last week decided to deploy a non-combat military training mission to Iraq to contribute to the international fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The mission will involve the deployment of 143 personnel to the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad and is likely to take place in May.

Their task will be to train Iraqi Security Force units so they are able to commence combat operations. Eventually they will be able to carry on the work of our trainers thereby creating an independent, self-sustaining military capability for the Government of Iraq to call on.

Our approach to combating ISIL is one that addresses humanitarian, diplomatic, intelligence and capacity building issues. The Iraqi government has requested support from the international community and has been clear with us that security is its top priority.

We've already made humanitarian contributions, with $14.5 million in aid provided to the region so far. We will also be stepping up our diplomatic efforts to counter ISIL and support stability in Iraq. This is part of our overall contribution to the international coalition of around 62 countries that are helping in various ways to fight this brutal and inhumane group.

Our personnel will be stationed at the Taji Military Complex, north of Baghdad, in a behind the wire mission to train the Iraqi Security Forces so they are in a better position to fight ISIL.

"Behind the wire" refers to personnel being deployed to a static and secure military base and not undertaking operations or activities outside of the secure perimeter of that base.

The military deployment will likely happen in May and will be for a maximum two year period, with a review by Cabinet after nine months. Prime Minister John Key has previously ruled out sending any Special Forces or troops in combat roles to Iraq. Special Forces will not be part of this deployment. However, they could be engaged for short periods of time to provide advice or to help with high profile visits, as they have many times before.

New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values. We stand up for what's right. This Government believes we have to do our bit to fight this group, whose distressing methods deserve the strongest condemnation.