Wellington, June 3 (IANS) Senior Iraqi government officials have thanked New Zealand for its military contribution to the fight against Islamic State insurgents, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said on Wednesday.
Brownlee, who has just left Iraq, said in a statement from his office that he had met with Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al- Obeidi in Baghdad and discussed the joint Australian-New Zealand mission to train Iraqi forces, Xinhua reported.
“Iraqi government and military commanders recognise our contribution to the Building Partner Capacity mission,” Brownlee said.
“As in Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and other deployments, NZDF (New Zealand Defence Force) personnel are making a difference through the quality military training they are providing Iraqi security forces.”
Brownlee was accompanied on his visit, which was not announced previously for security reasons, by the head of the NZDF and New Zealand’s newly appointed ambassador to Iraq.
Up to 143 NZDF personnel are involved in the mission to train Iraqi security forces to fight Islamic State insurgents on a two-year deployment, with a review after nine months.
“Early indications are Iraqi trainees are responding and relating well to our trainers,” Brownlee said.
Last month, opposition lawmakers called for the withdrawal of New Zealand troops after Islamic State forces overran Ramadi to come within 100 km of the New Zealand-Australian base at Taji, just north of Baghdad.