New Zealand will send its military instructors to help train Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State, Prime Minister John Key has announced. The deployed troops are not meant to engage in combat.
The government in Wellington will sent up to 143 troops to Iraq as a part of international effort to counter the Islamic State extremists, Prime Minister John Key said before the parliament Tuesday. The soldiers will be on a "behind the wire" training mission which would begin in May.
"We cannot, and should not, fight Iraq's battles for them - and actually Iraq doesn't want us to," Key said while announcing the initiative.
"Our military can, however, play a part in building the capability and capacity of the Iraqi forces so they can fight ISIL themselves," he added, using one of several acronyms for Islamic State jihadists.
Iraqi army 'treacherous'
He described the group - infamous for beheading, stoning and burning alive its victims - as "barbaric", saying New Zealand would "stand up for what's right".
Head of opposition Labor Party, Andrew Little, said New Zealand should concentrate on supplying humanitarian aid to Iraq, rather than military training.
"We won't fix the (Iraqi) army; It is disorganized, it is broken, it is treacherous and it is corrupt," he told parliament during the fierce debate following the Key's announcement.
However, Prime Minister Key said opposition representatives should "get some guts and join the right side".
"Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision," he said.
Key and his government made the decision to deploy troops without putting it to a parliamentary vote, which some critics believe illustrate lack of support for the move. Two minor parties that support the centre-right government also sided against this decision.
New Zealand participated in international military mission in Afghanistan, but declined to join the 2003 Iraq war.
Training for two years
Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee said the training provided by military instructors would cover basic weapons skills, individual and unit military skills to prepare for combat operations, and other skills such as medical support and logistics.
Most of the New Zealand troops are set to be stationed in the Taji base near Baghdad, alongside their Australian colleagues. According to Prime Minister Key, initial deployment should last nine months, and the mission should be over within two years.