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March 12, 2018 | by  | in News |
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New Zealand’s Uncertain Role in Iraq

Harmeet Sooden, a New Zealand human rights campaigner who was abducted in Iraq in 2005, has released a report in collaboration with Stuff about the continued involvement of the New Zealand Defence Force in the training of Iraqi security forces.

In February 2015, the National government approved the deployment of 143 Defence Force personnel to Iraq. This contingent was to act in a purely instructional capacity, and aid in the training of Iraqi defence personnel.

With the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militarily defeated in December 2017, questions are being raised about the purpose of the Australia-New Zealand contingent to Camp Taji in Iraq.

According to Mr Sooden, New Zealand soldiers are not only training the security forces but have expanded their role to incorporate the collection of various forms of intelligence. This includes biometric information, which can allegedly be accessed by foreign parties such as the United States Department of Defense.

During the 2017 election, the Labour Party campaigned on a platform of immediate withdrawal of New Zealand personnel from Iraq. After four months of a Labour-led coalition, we are yet to see action being taken toward delivering on this promise.

The last review of the deployment was in June 2016, which allowed for New Zealand personnel to continue training at a secure location 52 kilometres south of Camp Taji.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Salient that the mission will be continued until November 2018, but provided no denial or confirmation as to whether there has been a change in the mission’s objective.

“Training has now been provided to over 30,000 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and contributed to the ability of Iraqi troops to expel ISIS/Daesh from Iraqi territory in December 2017.”

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