Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee has paid his third visit to NZ Defence Force troops training members of the Iraqi Security Forces at Camp Taji, near Baghdad.
Mr Brownlee arrived back in Dubai this morning, accompanied by Chief of the Defence Force Lt Gen Tim Keating.
“Once again I’ve been impressed by the way our trainers are able to connect with the Iraqi Security Forces,” Mr Brownlee says.
New Zealand has 106 trainers, force protection elements and other regular force soldiers at Camp Taji, and a small number of other troops at coalition bases across the region.
“Our trainers have a good rapport with the Iraqis, and they’re respected by them, which is always pleasing to witness,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Task Group Taji has now trained well over 20,000 troops and we’re seeing a number of groups returning to upskill, as well as an evolution in the training audience. As predicted when I last visited, Task Group Taji is now training significant numbers of holding forces such as the Iraqi Federal Police.
“The need for these different forces to maintain civil order in now liberated towns and cities across Iraq is a real sign of the success of the counter-Daesh coalition campaign.
“This allows regular troops from the Iraqi Security Forces to be deployed ridding Daesh from the few but notable remaining areas of Iraq where they have a presence, such as Mosul.”
While in Iraq Mr Brownlee received briefings at coalition headquarters in Baghdad from senior members of the counter-Daesh coalition, including New Zealand’s Brigadier Hugh McAslan, Deputy Commanding General of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command, Operation Inherent Resolve.
Mr Brownlee also met with the President of the Republic of Iraq, Fuad Masum, who passed on the Government of Iraq’s appreciation for New Zealand’s support.
Prior to visiting Iraq Mr Brownlee met and discussed regional issues and mutual state interests with His Excellency Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defense of the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.