This week the Government has decided to deploy a non-combat military training mission to Iraq as part of our contribution to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Up to 143 New Zealand personnel will join the two-year mission, working behind the wire to train Iraqi Security Forces so they are better able to fight ISIL.
A training mission like this is not without danger, and our first objective is to keep our troops as safe as possible. That’s why we’ll be sending our own force protection to support these training activities.
Although this has been a very difficult decision, it is the right one.
New Zealanders hear stories of ISIL’s atrocities on a daily basis - mass beheadings, kidnappings, people being thrown off buildings, and being burnt alive.
We will not stand by while this brutality continues. New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values.
ISIL’s ability to motivate radicals and recruit foreign fighters to its ranks makes it a threat not only to stability in the Middle East, but around the globe, including New Zealand. Complacency is not an option, as we have seen events unfold in Paris, Ottawa, and as close to home as Sydney.
Kiwis are prolific travellers who are vulnerable to terrorist activity around the world. In contributing to the fight against ISIL, we are supporting the people of that region and New Zealanders too.
Military training alone will not solve the problems ISIL pose in Iraq. That’s why our approach addresses diplomatic, intelligence, and capacity-building issues.
We have already provided $14.5 million in humanitarian aid to the region and we are looking at how we can provide more. We are also stepping up our diplomatic efforts, and as a member of the UN Security Council, we are advocating for effective action on ISIL.
Be assured the Government has not taken this decision lightly. New Zealand has got to do its bit to fight this threat to international security, and we are confident our defence force will carry out this mission effectively.