Opposition cheer leaders say that Little and Labour are wrong over Iraq deployment

The NZ Herald has become a left-wing rag in the past decade. They’ve run hit job after hit job on anyone and everyone who is right of centre.

But today, bless, they basically told Labour they are wrong to want to pull out of Iraq.

The Government’s decision to extend the service of New Zealand soldiers in Iraq beyond next February’s deadline is the right one, even though the Prime Minister had previously indicated the troops were on two-year deployment due to end next May. The extension means 143 men and women from the Defence Force will be rotated through Iraq until November 2018.

It is a significant commitment, and was forecast to cost about $57 million by the time it was due to wind up next year. The longer stay will probably double the bill. A heavily-censored review of the deployment considered by the Cabinet in March said the work undertaken by New Zealand Defence Force personnel had been successful.

Since May last year, NZDF soldiers at the Taji Military Base near Baghdad, where they work with Australian forces, had trained some 4000 Iraqi troops. Instruction included weapons training, conflict first aid, human rights and planning for combat operations. Three junior leadership courses were completed and Iraqi medics attended a six-day course.

The review said the military training was having a “tangible and positive impact” on the ability of Iraqi Army units to wage war against the Islamic State or Isis. Groups which had completed training performed better than those which had not been through a programme. ?

Putting aside the difficulty of evaluating redacted Defence Force assessments of their own work, there are signs that Iraqi forces, supported by coalition air support, are making inroads against Isis.

In Iraq and Syria, Isis’ grip is loosening. Insurgents have been forced out of about 55 places they once controlled, including four major cities. An intense fight is being waged for Falluja, the first city Isis controlled.

American officials estimate Isis has lost about 45 per cent of its territory in Syria and 20 per cent in Iraq since the peak of its control in August 2014. This represents more than simply a military setback, for with every town and village that is lost, the group also loses income that comes from taxes and fines. In other words, Isis appears to be hurting militarily and financially.

Daesh is getting marched backwards and losing fighters through demoralising defeats. When your team is going backwards the resolve to keep fighting dissipates rapidly.

The Government was under pressure from Washington to expand its contribution to the coalition and facing criticism at home from Labour leader Andrew Little. Mr Little, who has visited the troops, opposes the extension because he has concerns about the capability of the Iraqi Army. There is some justification for his misgivings, given the performance of Iraqi troops in some encounters with the militants. But with expanded coalition resources, and progress on the training front, the recent conflict gains suggest the picture is not as bleak as it has been.

Little is just grandstanding. The man is a fool. His rationale is we should only help a country if their form of government agrees with him, and their troops are of a sufficient standard that they wouldn’t need us anyway. It all sounds good to the?Media party and the great unwashed, but is actually meaningless dribble.

The Iraq commitment involves risks, from insider attacks, assaults on Camp Taji and indirect fire. Thankfully the NZDF group at Taji and at another undisclosed location in Iraq have remained unharmed, despite suicide bomb attacks launched against heavily guarded coalition compounds.

The troops involved in the training and battlefield preparations of Iraqi Army troops remain targets of the militants. The New Zealanders will need to tread carefully for the rest of their stay.

All combat and wars involve risks, but that is what soldiers sign up for, they are not namby-pamby panty-waists like Andrew Little for whom the closest he’s ever come to combat is a bit of argy-bargy on the?picket line.


– NZ Herald