6 Nov 2014

Support lacking for Iraq move

8:58 am on 6 November 2014

The Government is struggling to get political support for any kind of military presence in Iraq.

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out New Zealand soldiers being involved in a combat role as part of international efforts to combat Islamic State but troops could be in Iraq next year training the Iraqi army.

Mr Key said says 10 military planners will be sent to the Middle East on a scoping mission.

Peter Dunne, leader of the United Future political party.

Peter Dunne opposes military involvement. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The United Future leader, Peter Dunne, said there should be no military involvement at all.

"Efforts in terms of direct assistance should be focused on humanitarian assistance or assistance in terms of improving instutions and governance in Iraq and other countries in the region."

Another support partner, the Maori Party, also objects to any military presence.

Labour is warning that training assistance is the first step in joining in all-out war in Iraq, while New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, said IS will not be interested in the semantics of what New Zealand troops are doing.

"You've got to look at the perception of (Islamic State) and their supporters. They will see it as us engaged in a coalition ... it puts us at even greater risk," said Mr Peters.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said that was a ridiculous suggestion and New Zealand was not at war.

Gerry Brownlee.

Gerry Brownlee. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr Brownlee told Morning Report New Zealand defence personnel would have a lot to teach Iraqi troops.

If they were invited by the Iraqi government, they would set conditions to help keep New Zealand personnel safe.

"We don't want them for example having to drive to a location over roads that can be loaded up with IEDs (improvised explosive devices), we would like to be able to fly them in and out."

Mr Key has said the Cabinet will make the final decision, and it won't be put to a vote in Parliament.

However, opponents say while the Government doesn't need the votes in Parliament, broad political support for such action is desirable.

US-led air strikes continue

Meanwhile, the United States has continued its assault on Islamic State extremists, conducting 14 airstrikes in recent days in Syria and Iraq.

Over three days this week, US military forces launched three strikes near the Syrian border town of Kobane and one strike to the north in Sinjar.

The strikes reportedly hit a small unit of militant fighters as well as two fighting positions.

In Iraq, ten strikes destoyed Islamic State buildings near Mosul, Falluja and Singar, including an explosives manufacturing facility.

Britain is boosting the number of its army trainers in Iraq to support the Iraqi armed forces' battle against Islamic State extremists, Reuters reports.

Last month it said it had deployed a team of trainers to Iraq to help Kurdish peshmerga fighters with the use of heavy machine-guns.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said details of the mission would be ironed out soon but Britain was offering additional training and support for Iraqi troops and also equipment.

Iraqi and Western officials believe that Islamic State can only be defeated if Iraqi security forces improve their performance.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are attacking Islamic State positions near Mosul, Iraq.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are attacking Islamic State positions near Mosul, Iraq. Photo: REUTERS

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