Camp Taji

Claire Trevett on how Andrew little got blindsided in Iraq

Andrew Little, helped by the Media party, is claiming triumph on his blitzkrieg tour of Iraq…in the shadow of Gerry Brownlee.

Claire Trevett explains why he’s been done like a dinner by those dastardly Nats.

At first blush, the Government’s invitation to Labour leader Andrew Little to visit the troops in Iraq appeared to be a trick.

The question is not so much why Little took up the invitation to go along with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee. Despite having criticised Prime Minister John Key’s own visit to Iraq as a photo op, Little had no qualms about brandishing photos of himself striding manfully around Taji in his flak jacket.

The bigger question is why the invitation was issued in the first place.

A superficial interpretation of the Government’s motivations is that it put Little in an awkward situation. Politically, it was a risky move for Little. Labour vehemently opposed sending the troops to Iraq last year, yet there Little was, meeting those very same troops.

It is not unheard of for Opposition leaders to visit troops on deployment. Last year, Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten visited the troops at Taji.

The difference between him and Little was Shorten was able to stand before the troops and assure them they had Labor’s bipartisan support.

Little’s message to the troops was somewhat more complex. It appeared to consist of telling those troops he thought they were doing a good job while sticking to his line that the job they were doing was futile.

Should Little oppose future deployments, he has handed his rivals an encyclopedia of photos and gushing comments with which to lambast him.

The prospect of watching Little squirm in front of those whose deployment he had opposed may well have been the cherry on the top for National.

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So Little visits our troops in Iraq to see how the people he doesn?t want to be there are doing

You’ve got to love the hypocrisy and sanctimony of Andrew Little.

Invited on a ministerial tour to our troops in Iraq he somehow manages to get the Media party to call it his secret trip. Never mind that it was Gerry Brownlee’s trip or that Mark Mitchell went as well…no, for the Media party it was Andrew Little’s secret trip to Iraq.

Labour leader Andrew Little has made a top secret visit to Iraq to visit New Zealand troops based at Camp Taji and is now questioning whether the two-year term will be extended.

Mr Little has just left Iraq after Camp Taji with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and Chief of Defence Force Tim Keating.

Labour opposed the 2015 deployment of troops to help train Iraqi soldiers fight against Islamic State (Isis), but Mr Little said he accepted the invitation from Mr Brownlee because he believed it was important to see first hand the work of the troops and the conditions in which they lived.

Mr Little praised the “skill and professionalism” of the troops he met. ? Read more »

Kiwis support our troops in Iraq

The NZ Herald has a new poll showing support for our mission in Iraq has grown.

Support in New Zealand for the deployment of Kiwi trainers to Iraq to help in the fight against Isis has increased, according to the latest Herald DigiPoll survey, and opposition to it has declined.

Just over 63 per cent support the deployment, up by 3.9 points since the same question was asked at the beginning of the deployment in April.

Opposition has reduced by 4.4 points to 30.1 per cent.

The New Zealand Defence Force is running a joint training mission with the Australian Defence Force at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad.

About 105 New Zealand personnel are based at the camp and a further 40 are deployed in support roles in the region. ? Read more »

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David Shearer’s hypocrisy on Iraq

David Shearer got a few headlines this week by saying that the danger around John Key’s visit to Taji in Iraq has been exaggerated by the media.

Unsurprisingly, people paid attention to what Shearer said. After all, he’s been to Iraq since the U.S. invasion and has a long career working in conflict zones, so you’d think he’d know what he was talking about.

Interestingly enough, Shearer’s claim that Iraq wasn’t that dangerous is a relatively new claim by him. You see, back in May, Shearer claimed that Kiwi troops in Iraq were at quite high risk, pointing out that it would be easy for ISIS to fire rockets ?at planes coming in and out of Taji, as well as the base itself. In fact, back in 2008 a rocket attack hit a compound he was in, killing two of his colleagues.

Taji base is big enough to have a landing strip, which is the preferred mode of transport given how vulnerable the road network is.

Kiwi troops would have several rings of security around the base – a level of security that is intense but necessary, Shearer said.

In Taji rockets would be getting fired at planes and because of the size of the base it’s an easy target to fire rockets at and then disappear, he said.

“The third threat would be the people you are training turning on you and the fourth one, my understanding, is that there’s likely to be militia coming onto the base as well.”

“Although they’re fighting the same fight that we are, they’re not necessarily very welcoming of foreigners being in Iraq.”

“I’d say it’s a very dangerous situation.”

Shearer said the situation had been made worse by Prime Minister John Key advertising that troops are there working alongside the United States and Australia as part of a “deal with the club”.

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Brownlee happy to meet with Aussie minister, but his guts aren’t big enough to check in on the NZSAS

Gerry Brownlee can find his way to Devonport Naval base but so far has not managed to find Papakura Base.

Gerry Brownlee can find his way to Devonport Naval base but so far has not managed to find Papakura Base.

Gerry “Pie-eater” Brownlee has plenty of time to meet the new Aussie defence minister but hasn’t yet managed to find the time to visit his elite troops in Papakura.

Defence ministers from New Zealand and Australia will meet in Auckland tomorrow to discuss international security matters.

Gerry Brownlee will host Australian counterpart Kevin Andrews at the Devonport Naval Base for their annual catch-up. ? Read more »

SAS wanna-be Ron Marks once again touts bad intel

The man who likes to fail to correct anyone who says he served in the NZSAS is tilting at windmills again.

NZ First’s Ron Mark believes more troops are being trained for deployment to Iraq, but the Government says it doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

“We understand preparations are being made to deploy an extra platoon of infantry, about 30 personnel, to assist with security at Taji,” Mr Mark told reporters today.

About 150 Defence Force personnel are based at Taji camp near Baghdad, helping train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State.

Mr Mark questioned Prime Minister John Key in Parliament about the extra platoon.

“I have no knowledge of that at all,” Mr Key said. ? Read more »

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