New Zealand to extend military deployments to Iraq, Afghan

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Wellington, Sep 17 (IANS) The New Zealand government on Monday announced an extension of its military training deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a renewal of three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa.

“The decision to deploy defence force personnel overseas is one of the hardest for any government to take, especially when these deployments are to challenging and dangerous environments,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement cited by Xinhua news agency.

The Iraq deployment will be extended till June 2019 and the Afghanistan deployment will be extended till September 2019. This allows New Zealand to fulfil its current commitment to both missions, Ardern said.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) was first deployed to Iraq in April 2015. “This is a non-combat training mission aimed at upskilling the Iraqi security forces to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State. Up to 143 personnel were currently deployed on this mission,” Ardern said.

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The government extended the deployment of 11 NZDF trainers at the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy for 12 months. NZDF trainers were first deployed to the academy in 2013, Ardern added.

The three peacekeeping missions will be to the UN Mission in South Sudan, the UN Truce Supervision Organization in the Golan Heights and Lebanon and the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.

“The government has decided to continue with our current commitments to three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa, where we have an established presence and proven track record,” said New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

–IANS

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