Fresh New Zealand troops leave for Iraq mission

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Wellington, April 15 (IANS) The third rotation of New Zealand troops has departed to Australia to prepare to help train Iraqi soldiers in the fight against Islamic State extremists, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) said on Friday.

More than 100 NZDF personnel will undergo a three-week readiness exercise in Australia before leaving to join the joint New Zealand-Australia Building Partner Capacity training mission at Taji, north of Baghdad, Xinhua news agency reported.

The NZDF personnel would integrate with Australian Defence Force personnel into the single task group that would train the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), said Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Tim Gall.

The exercise would include a series of scenarios designed to ensure the trainers were ready for the tasks and environment they would face in Iraq, Gall said in a statement.

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Those travelling to the exercise included trainers, health, logistics and force protection personnel, as well as headquarters staff.

“Over 4,000 Iraqi soldiers have completed unit-level and individual specialty courses conducted by Task Group Taji since late April 2015,” said Gall.

Last month the New Zealand government accepted a review of the first nine months of the training mission, claiming it had been a success.

However, opposition lawmakers challenged the government to prove the assertion, saying review had been extensively redacted on publication.

The training programme centred on the provision of basic skills, including training in the laws of armed conflict, human rights, basic weapons handling, combat first aid, obstacle breaching techniques and planning for combat operations.

In total, trainers at five coalition sites across Iraq had trained around 19,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces since November 2014.

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