23 May 2015

'Tough ask' for IS to reach Camp Taji

11:54 am on 23 May 2015

The New Zealand Defence Force says Islamic State (IS) will find it difficult to reach the troops' base north of Baghdad, in Iraq, even though the militants are less than 130 kilometres away.

A New Zealand Defence Force trainer instructs ISF soldiers in correct weapons firing positions. Iraq - 2015

A NZDF trainer in Iraq instructs ISF soldiers in correct weapons-firing positions. Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

IS fighters have taken the town of Ramadi, to the east of the Camp Taji airbase, which is where more than 100 New Zealand troops are training the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to defend their country.

Brigadier Peter Kelly, who prepared the troops before they left New Zealand, said IS, which claims to be mostly Sunni Muslims, has been moving in Sunni territory.

He said it would find it more difficult to get closer to Baghdad.

"It's a tough ask, that last 117, 130km. It's very difficult. You come into an area that's predominately Shia and ISIS is predominately Sunni," he said.

"So, when you get into those more challenging built-up cities like Baghdad, that could well be pretty demanding."

Brigadier Kelly, who is in daily contact with the New Zealand troops, said the loss of Ramadi was known to be a loss for the ISF but they were keen to learn and continued to turn up for training.

He said the New Zealanders have had to structure their training to avoid the hottest times of sweltering, dusty 40°C days.

He said they started training the Iraqis at the start of this week, and are focusing on shooting, planning and conducting operations, and working in combination with other armed forces.

"Adjusting to the climate's pretty challenging for them... The training's been structured to avoid the hottest part of the day."

A New Zealand Defence Force protection soldier observes ISF troops. Iraq 2015

Photo: New Zealand Defence Force

A New Zealand Defence Force trainer instructs ISF soldiers in correct weapons firing positions. Iraq 2015

Photo: New Zealand Defence Force