Back in February last year, I wrote in War HUH! that we on the left should be supporting the deployment of NZ troops to train the Iraqi army in their fight to free their country from the pseudo religious fascists of ISIS. I was correct to say it then, and I stand by it now.
However, I’m concerned that Gerry Brownlee is now saying that the role of our trainers will change. Specifically, he has said that in the future we will be training the “Iraqi security police”.
That’s curious for two reasons. Firstly, there doesn’t appear to be any such organisation as the Iraqi security police. We need to know exactly who the Minister thinks we will be helping.
Secondly, if it turns out he thinks we are should be helping what turns out to be a branch of the Iraqi Police force, shouldn’t that be a job for the NZ Police, rather than the army? And isn’t that decision, therefore, a matter for the Police Minister?
I’ve got a terrible feeling that a bit of mission creep is happening here. If it’s Brownlee’s idea that we should be now training something akin to the military police, he needs to be a more honest about it. And he needs to acknowledge that this is a radical change from the original mission, which was to help get the Iraqi army into fighting shape.
Further, Brownlee is wrong when he claims that many of the 12,000 Iraqi troops trained by New Zealand and Australia are now involved in the fight to recapture the city of Mosul. The fighting is actually being done by Turkish and Kurdish forces, with support from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service. The latter is not part of the Iraqi army.
The following is a video of an interview with Andrew Little. He makes some good points about what our trainers have achieved and commits the next Government to providing civilian reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to the millions of refugees caused by conflict in the region.
Despite my reservations about Gerry Brownlee’s proposed transition to helping a non existent branch of the Iraqi security services, I’m still glad we’re there. We are doing the right thing by helping rid Iraq of ISIS.
Mosul will fall in the next few weeks and ISIS will have no option to shrink the caliphate down even further. They’ve lost nearly half the territory they held this time last year and a retreat into Syria is their only option now. Sensibly, that line of retreat is being left open to them. If they were forced to stay and fight, the civilian casualties would be enormous. They will be bad enough as it is.
I’m glad to see ISIS being beaten. I’m glad we have been part of the international force that has bought that about. But I’m less pleased about a Defence Minister who has no idea where we go from here.