The Government of New Zealand has announced plans to pull its troops from Iraq in a phased manner to complete withdrawal by next June.
New Zealand deployed its forces in 2015 as part of a joint mission with Australia to train Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) at Taji Military Complex in Iraq. The training is designed to prepare the ISF to fight the Islamic State (ISIS).
The non-combat Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission at Taji is set to conclude in June next year.
Once the mission comes to a close, New Zealand will hand over full responsibility for basic training to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
Currently, 95 personnel from New Zealand are stationed at Taji. This will come down to 75 from next month and 45 from January. The end of the mission will mark the retreat of troops from Iraq.
Since 2015, the joint BPC mission has trained more than 44,000 ISF personnel at Taji. The mission was originally planned for two years. The government extended it by two years to June 2019.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “Four years ago New Zealand made a commitment to the Iraqi Government and to the coalition to train the ISF at Taji and lift their capability to defeat and prevent the resurgence of ISIS. Over the next 12 months, New Zealand will be able to wind down and conclude that commitment.”
The country will, however, continue to support the US-led international coalition to fight ISIS with a reduced number of support roles. By June next year, the government will review these positions.
Furthermore, the government has announced an increase in its stabilisation funding contribution to Iraq to approximately NZD3m ($1.99m) per year for the next three years.
This fund will help communities affected by the ISIS conflict in their recovery and rebuilding efforts.
New Zealand Defence Minister Ron Mark said: “Significant progress has been made in this area, which will allow the mission to reduce in numbers and conclude within the next year, having successfully achieved what we went in to do.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand will reduce the number of personnel on the ground in Afghanistan from 13 to 11. It will continue to support the non-combat, Nato-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions.