New Zealand will send a small number of troops to Iraq to help train the local forces in their fight against the deadly terrorist group, Islamic State, Prime Minister John key announced on Tuesday.
Key told politicians in the parliament that up to 143 military personnel from the NZ Defence Force would join Australia in training Iraqi forces. He further said the personnel will be based "behind the wire" and would only train Iraqi security forces in their fight against Isis and not actively take part in combat missions.
"New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values. We stand up for what is right," Key told the parliament. "We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally. We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened, as it is today."
He added that most of the troops will likely be based in the Taji military base, located north of Baghdad, and will be part of a joint mission with Australia. The two-year deployment is slated to commence in May, and the government will review after nine months, he said.
"Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision," he said, adding: "We stand up for what's right."
The move was immediately opposed by most political parties. Opposition labour Party leader Andrew Little said the lawmakers should have been given a chance to vote on this issue.
"They won't just be behind the wire, they will be exposed to the much wider conflict," Little said, the Associated Press reports. "And it won't be just the soldiers we send to Iraq, it will be Kiwis travelling around the world."