Kiwi troops may stay in Middle East to fight Isis
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.