New Zealand troops to withdraw from Iraq by 2020

Wellington,  New Zealand troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by June 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday.

The New Zealand Defence Forces (NZDF) deployment at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, will be reduced in stages from the current 95 personnel until the end of mission in June 2020 when full responsibility for basic training will be handed over to the Iraqi Security Forces, Ardern said in a joint statement with Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defense Ron Mark.

New Zealand and Australian forces have trained more than 44,000 Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) personnel since arriving at Camp Taji as part of the anti-Islamic State terror group coalition in 2015, reports Efe news.

“Four years ago New Zealand made a commitment to the Iraqi Government and to the Coalition to train the ISF at Taji and lift their capability to defeat and prevent the resurgence of ISIS. Over the next 12 months, New Zealand will be able to wind down and conclude that commitment,” Ardern said.

The country will increase its stabilization funding for aid and development in Iraq to NZ$3 million ($2 million) per year over the next three years, up from NZ$2.4 million, to help affected communities.

Ardern also announced that the country’s deployment to Afghanistan would remain to support training of Afghan Army officers until December 2020, and will pursue new opportunities “enhancing involvement of women in peace and security initiatives” with NATO.

“By March 2020, the number of NZDF personnel deployed in Afghanistan will have decreased from 13 to 11. This will comprise six personnel deployed to the Officer Academy, two personnel within RSM Headquarters and potentially up to three focusing on Women, Peace and Security and reconciliation and reintegration,” the Defence Minister said.