Prime Minister John Key will send non-combat troops to help Iraq fight ISIS
Prime Minister John Key will send non-combat troops to help Iraq fight ISIS

NZ to send 143 non-combat troops to help Iraq fight ISIS

NEW Zealand will send a non-combat training mission with Australia to Taji Camp, north of Baghdad in Iraq - although it will not be a badged mission, says Prime Minister John Key.

About 600 Australian Defence Force personnel have deployed to the Middle East. 

It would be reviewed after nine months and last no more two years.

The total would be up to 143 New Zealand personnel.

Mr Key was speaking in Parliament to confirm New Zealand's deployment of troop trainers to help Iraq fight Isis (Islamic State) which has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria and conducted barbaric killings.

"This brutal group and its distressing methods deserve the strongest condemnation," Mr Key said.

He said New Zealand did not shy away from its responsibilities when the rule of law was under threat.

"If anything Isil's brutality had worsened since his national security speech last November."

Mr Key said the ability of Isis to motivate Islamic radical's threatened the security not just of the Middle East, but regionally and locally too.

"New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values. We stand up for what's right.

"We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally.

"We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.

"We have carved out our own independent foreign policy over decades and we take pride in it."

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key

Mr Key said force protection would be deployed in Iraq to support New Zealand's trainers.

He said that although he ruled out sending Special Air Service (SAS) troops to Iraq in a combat role in November, SAS soldiers might be deployed in Iraq "for short periods" to protect the trainers.

Logistics and medical support would also be sent to the Middle East.

"We will secure the best protections we realistically can for our personnel," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said legal protections would be worked through with the Iraqi Government in the coming weeks.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully is expected to visit Baghdad some time to negotiate an agreement with the Iraqi Government.

Mr Key said New Zealand would appoint a new ambassador on counter-terrorism - which mirrors a move announced yesterday by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Mr Key last year said there was a watchlist of 35 to 40 New Zealanders "of concern in the foreign fighter context", and they remained under surveillance.

He also said an additional group requiring further investigation was "growing in number".

"We have strengthened the ability of our intelligence agencies to deal with this and they are taking steps to add to their resources.

"We cannot be complacent, as events in Sydney, Paris and Ottawa have underscored."

Mr Key concluded his statement by saying New Zealand did not take its commitment to Iraq lightly.

"In return we expect that the Iraqi government will make good on its commitment to an inclusive government that treats all Iraqi citizens with respect.

"Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision. They will go with our best wishes."

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the total estimated cost of a two-year deployment was $65 million, though some costs had not yet been finalised.

In his reply to the Prime Minister's statement, Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour could see no case for sending troops to Iraq.

He said it was clear Islamic State was brutal.

"There wouldn't be a New Zealander whose seen those images whose stomachs have not been turned. But let's be clear what we're dealing with. They call themselves, Islamic State, but they are not a state. They run across borders, they are cultural, ethnic, religious and driven by a number of motivations."

He said it was a "depository of the dispossessed, the extreme and yes, the evil."

"But it is not a conventional enemy."

Mr Little said it was clear the Government had made its decision some time ago "and I venture to suggest it was taken for a range of reasons that have not been outlined today."

Mr Little said he doubted Mr Key's assurances the training forces would be 'behind the wire.' He said there was little doubt the troops would be exposed to the wider combat and little to gain.

"After 10 years of training of the Iraq Army by the US Army, ... what impact will we have? What can we hope to achieve? We think be sending a very modest force, we are going to achieve what the US Army has not been able to achieve in 10 years? We will not fix the Iraqi Army. It is broken, it is corrupt."

He said Iraq's foreign minister had told Labour that civil reconstruction was just as critical. "No one will defeat Islamic State through the Iraqi Army." He said that could only be achieved by turning Iraq into a well-functioning state and developing industries such as agriculture.

"NZ has a reputation abroad as an honest broker. We won [the Security Council seat] because of our reputations as a responsible, reputable global citizen." He said NZ had an opportunity to provide leadership in a way it had not before and should do that in Iraq.