Wellington, June 20 (IANS) New Zealand will extend its deployment in Iraq to train Iraqi Security Forces until November 2018 and to expand to a second military base, Prime Minister John Key said on Monday.
The New Zealand government agreed to extend the joint New Zealand-Australia mission, which had been set to finish early next year, Xinhua news agency reported.
It also agreed an amendment to the mission’s mandate to allow small numbers of training and force protection team to travel from current Taji Military Base to Besmaya military base,.
The 105 military trainers from New Zealand would remain “behind the wire”, Key said.
While he could not rule out a further extension to the deployment beyond November 2018, Key said that he did not want the New Zealand Defence Force to be in Iraq “forever”.
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said that the government had also agreed to provide training to stabilisation forces, such as the Iraqi Federal Police, in addition to the Iraqi Army.
Till date, around 7,000 Iraqi Security Force personnel have been trained by the mission at Taji, including around 975 officers who have graduated from four junior leadership courses.
At present around 105 NZDF personnel and some 300 Australian Defence Force troops are deployed in Taji.