New Zealand urged to boost military role in fight against Islamic State
New Zealand has been urged to boost its military contribution in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the Government says it will not rush to send more troops.
Speaking to the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday (NZ time), American defence secretary Ash Carter said he had personally contacted 40 nations to encourage them to do more to fight IS in Iraq and Syria.
"We all — let me repeat that — we all must do more."
Carter said he had asked the countries for a range of support including special operations forces, air strikes, and weapons and ammunition.
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee told RNZ the Government had received a letter from Carter asking for help.
Brownlee said New Zealand was already "making a pretty significant contribution" given the country's size, with a two-year, $65 million deployment of Kiwi trainers to work with Iraqi forces, and would take its time to make a decision.
"We're going through a review at the moment of the first tranche of the training mission that we're involved in at Taji and that'll be presented to Cabinet in March, and I think from that time we'll be able to assess whether or not there's something else we could do."
Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand would not "necessarily" send more troops overseas.
"We've got a great relationship with the United States. I think they're just saying that as countries get involved they are trying to consider what their next step should be and what that capability should look like.
"That actually makes sense if you're Ash Carter, but that doesn't necessarily mean New Zealand should respond with further resources," he said.
Committing more troops would be a "very big call", Key said.
"They [United States] want to see us play our part. They also know these people are very barbaric with their actions so they wouldn't in all good consciences expect us to sit back and do nothing.
"But on the other side of the coin there's a big step between that and committing troops to accompany the local forces.
Labour defence spokesman Phil Goff said New Zealand should not rush into any additional commitments in Iraq, given how easily military deployments could escalate in duration and resources.
"It's easy to be drawn into conflicts - exit strategies are much harder."
Goff said it was not clear how much had been achieved by trainers in the current deployment, while the Iraqi Army had issues with poor leadership and bad living conditions for soldiers.
New Zealand would "almost certainly" be asked to send special forces soldiers to Iraq, but should not do so unless clear preconditions were met.
Goff said any intervention to fight IS should be UN-sanctioned, there needed to be "clear and achievable objectives", and there should be an acceptable level of risk.
"The decision to go should not be made simply to be a member of the club."
Carter said the US was expanding its special operation forces in Iraq and Syria to fight IS by conducting raids, freeing hostages, and gathering intelligence.