Iraq deployment extended

Despite unwisely saying the deployment of New Zealand troops in Iraq would be limited to two years yesterday John Key announced an 18 month extension.

Stuff: Kiwi troop deployment to Iraq has been extended by 18 months

The Government has agreed to extend the stay of Kiwi soldiers in Iraq by another 18 months.

Prime Minister John Key announced on Monday that New Zealand’s mission to train Iraqi Security Forces in the fight against so-called Islamic State (Isis) would continue until November 2018.

The deployment had been set to finish later this year and when Key visited the camp in October last year he said he was reluctant to extend the mission beyond the two-year time frame.

Finite plans involving long running conflict zones were always likely to have to change.

The number of troops deployed would not change under the extension – up to 143 at any time are in Iraq.

The threat by Isis to New Zealand and “New Zealand’s interests remains a real one,” Key said.

The Government has also agreed to amend its mission mandate and allow small numbers of troops to leave Taji to travel for short periods to Besmaya – a secure training location about 52 kilometres southeast of Taji.

The troops would remain “behind the wire” and Key had been advised the camp in Besmaya was “as safe as Taji if not even safer”.

To ensure that safety, troops moving between Taji and Besmaya would only do so by air.

While Key said he was “extremely reluctant” for troops to go outside the wire, if there was another deployment after 2018, he didn’t rule it out.

The future of Iraq is clouded by ongoing conflict and uncertainty.

The future of the New Zealand deployment was always going to be up for review, as it should be. Whether it’s wise to remain there is a valid question.