Kiwi troops may stay in Mid­dle East to fight Isis

The Dominion Post - - News -

The New Zealand De­fence Force could re­main in the Mid­dle East be­yond the end of next year as part of an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion of forces tack­ling Isis, gov­ern­ment pa­pers re­veal.

More than 300 per­son­nel from the New Zealand De­fence Force (NZDF) were car­ry­ing out mis­sions across the globe as of mid-Septem­ber, with three-quar­ters posted to the wider Mid­dle East.

Most of those are part of a joint Aus­tralia-New Zealand op­er­a­tion train­ing se­cu­rity forces in ru­ral Iraq for op­er­a­tions against Isis, while oth­ers are part of coali­tion op­er­a­tions in Bagh­dad and Kuwait.

De­ploy­ments are ex­pected to con­clude in Novem­ber 2018, but a brief­ing from the Min­istry of De­fence and NZDF to new De­fence Min­is­ter Ron Mark hinted troops may be on the ground for longer.

The doc­u­ment said: ‘‘As the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Iraq re­mains dy­namic, New Zealand’s de­ploy­ment will re­main a key fo­cus in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

‘‘While the cur­rent gov­ern­ment man­date sees our forces in Iraq un­til Novem­ber 2018 …’’, with the rest of the sen­tence redacted.

Other Kiwi forces will re­main on op­er­a­tions un­til June 2020 to pro­vide lo­gis­tics and trans­port sup­port for NZDF troops de­ployed in the Mid­dle East and Africa.

Top brass also have a ‘‘height­ened con­cern’’ over Is­lamist ex­trem­ist groups in South East Asia.

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