24 Feb 2015

Brownlee outlines Iraq deployment

6:40 pm on 24 February 2015

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has laid out the details of New Zealand's military deployment to Iraq.

More than 140 defence force personnel will be deployed - with most heading to Iraq in May.

Mr Brownlee said it would likely be a joint mission with the Australian Defence Force.

"Up to 106 personnel will be based at the Taji Military Complex 30 km north of Baghdad, a number of staff officers will be at Coalition Headquarters in Baghdad, and additional personnel will be at coalition bases in the region," Mr Bronwlee said.

"As well as the up to 143-strong force, other personnel and Air Force assets will occasionally need to be deployed to the region to support the mission - for example in support of personnel rotations and resupply."

While the main focus of the deployment was ostensibly to help build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces, Mr Brownlee said a significant number of the troops sent to Iraq would be helping to protect the New Zealand contingent.

Mr Brownlee said the deployment would be reviewed by Cabinet in nine months time and that the mission would be for a two-year period.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (left) and Prime Minister John Key (right).

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (left) and Prime Minister John Key (right). Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

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The chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant Tim Keating said the training mission, known as Building Partner Capacity, was within the capabilities of New Zealand's military.

He said pre-deployment was now the focus of the Defence Force.

"I expect the deployment to occur sometime in May with staff officers taking up their posts next month," he said.

Read the 'Details of the training mission to Iraq' address by the Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating (PDF)

Access slides accompanying Lieutenant General Tim Keating's address here (PDF)

Lieutenant Keating said about a third of the 62 coalition countries taking action against Islamic State had provided a military contribution.

New Zealand would be helping Iraqi forces with a broad range of military skills - from basic weapons training to unit military skills.

"A training mission like this is not without risk," he said, "but this is not a New Zealand defence Force training mission to directly confront ISIL."

"It is a mission that is designed to train the Iraqi security forces so that they can better fight ISIL."

The Foreign Affairs Minister said New Zealand would also be boosting its diplomatic efforts to try and counter Islamic State.

Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand was also assessing options to base a diplomat in Baghdad to liaise between the Iraqi government and this country's military force at the Taji military base.

"The New Zealand government has been very clear that in addition to deploying non-combat troops to help train Iraqi forces, we also need to take steps to combat ISIL at the diplomatic level and provide humanitarian support to those displaced by the fighting in the region," Mr McCully said.

New Zealand was also appointing a new Ambassador for Counter Terrorism to participate in international counter-terrorism efforts.

Tim Keating (right) John Key (middle) and Gerry Brownlee (left).

Tim Keating (right) John Key (middle) and Gerry Brownlee (left). Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr McCully said New Zealand had also committed $14.5 million in humanitarian support for those displaced by the ongoing violence in Iraq and Syria.

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