It looks like it’s all on for Kiwi troops to be despatched to Iraq.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari today met a heavyweight bunch of Alf’s colleagues, The Boss, Murray McCully and Gerry Brownlee.
There was a request for us to help his beleaguered country and as Radio NZ said:
The request for support takes New Zealand one step closer to a decision on deploying troops to help train Iraqi forces, with back-up from special forces.
The Government has repeatedly ruled out the troops having any combat role.
This is a shame because Alf would like to be a starter, should a force be sent to teach them Islamic State ratbags a lesson or two in warfare. But we are sending only a bunch of trainers, it seems, and Alf counts himself out when it comes simply to teaching Iraqis how to fight, especially when he imagines there is some difficulty in Iraq in sorting out the guys who deserve our help from the ratbags who don’t.
What’s more Alf has a sneaking feeling the Iraqis want to make things tough for our troops to defend themselves, because they say they welcome support from any country that respects its sovereignty.
This suggests they want us to let them do the defending of our troops, in which case Alf is of a mind to say we should stay at home and leave them to it.
Moreover he observes that Iraq has not issued a specific invitation for New Zealand troops to train the Iraqi army. Rather it has issued a general invitation to the international community for support, Murray told the Herald.
Mr McCully said Dr al-Ja’afari made it clear that Iraq was looking for assistance from the international community in the fight against Isil in assistance, training, logistics, reconstruction and capacity building forms.
“They are looking for support and assistance from countries, not only those that are inside the formal coalition, which we are, but also some countries outside it,” he said.
“He’s nominated areas which they hope the countries will be able to provide that support, we’ve made it clear that there are some of those areas that are not appropriate for New Zealand.”
An area inappropriate for Alf would be anything that denied him access to a pub each night.
This could be a real issue because Muslim countries are apt to take a dim view of alcohol.
Obviously we have lots of troops who won’t be too fussed about missing their nightly pint because we have a mob of them training for any deployment and a team of military fellers in Iraq scoping out what role New Zealand could play and assessing factors such as safety.
But further talks are needed to discuss the trainers’ ability to protect themselves while in Iraq, Murray said.
Dr al-Ja’afari gave a good reason why we should demand we can look after ourselves and not depend too much on his army.
He conceded that there was a level of corruption within the Iraqi armed forces, “but this does not mean that there aren’t courageous Iraqi soldiers and officers to fight and sacrifice themselves”.
How many? And which country are they now living in?