New Zealand soldiers prepare for possible deployment to Iraq

10 February 2015 (Last Updated February 10th, 2015 18:30)

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel have secured approval from the defence ministry to start specific contingency training for a possible deployment to Iraq.

New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel have secured approval from the defence ministry to start specific contingency training for a possible deployment to Iraq.

Scheduled to take place at army bases in Linton and Waiouru, New Zealand, the training will cover areas such as force protection, cultural awareness and skills relevant to deployment.

New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said it had been agreed to send a group of ten military planners to Iraq in November 2014 to assess what role the country could play in helping Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State (IS).

"This does not pre-empt any Cabinet decisions but is prudent given defence officials are close to providing final advice on a possible mission."

Brownlee said: "Those personnel continue to assess the possible nature and location of a mission to train Iraqi Defence Forces.

"They are doing their own reconnaissance as well as working alongside the Australian Defence Force.

"While the team's work is not complete, I have accepted the Chief of Defence Force's request to begin specific training for a possible building partner capacity role in Iraq.

"This does not pre-empt any Cabinet decisions but is prudent given defence officials are close to providing final advice on a possible mission."

Last week, the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond urged New Zealand to join a US-led international coalition against IS, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria.

Hammond was quoted by The New Zealand Herald as saying that it should contribute 100 soldiers to a joint training mission in Iraq with Australia, which has already sent approximately 600 personnel to the country.

Hammond said: "They are looking at now engaging a training mission, which they are committed to do [and] which would need another 400 people and they are desperately keen that a contribution to that 400 is coming from New Zealand, so that it's a joint effort keeping the overall Australian contingent below the magic thousand number and showing a joint effort approach."

A decision regarding the deployment of NZDF personnel is likely to be announced by the end of the month.