SAS unlikely to fight IS

  • 22/12/2015
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (Simon Wong/3 News)
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (Simon Wong/3 News)

The Government has all but ruled out using SAS troops to fight Islamic State.

The United States has asked New Zealand to step up its contribution to the war against IS and the request is being considered.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says US Defence Secretary Ash Carter's request covered a range of military activities.

"We will think about a whole lot of things but I don't see the SAS being involved in Iraq in any particular combat role," he said on Radio New Zealand today.

"The other point is that the Iraqi government doesn't want that."

Mr Brownlee says the US request included helping train Iraqi forces, which New Zealand is already doing.

He hasn't entirely ruled out using combat troops and says the circumstances could change..

"If New Zealand came under more direct threat then I think people would expect us to do a little bit more."

Mr Carter's letter was received earlier this month, and at the time Prime Minister John Key said New Zealand was unlikely to increase its military commitment.

"My inclination is that we are making a big enough contribution already," he said.

A reply won't be sent until late January or February, after cabinet has met following parliament's summer recess.

The Labour Party says it could support the use of combat troops, under certain circumstances.

Defence spokesman Phil Goff say preconditions would include achievable outcomes, an acceptable level of risk and a United Nations mandate.

He's denying Labour has changed its policy since party leader Andrew Little met Pentagon officials in Washington last week.

Mr Goff says he set out Labour's position in a statement on December 10.

Labour previously opposed sending any troops to Iraq, including those deployed to help train Iraqi forces.

"Labour's position is that we should not send troops to Iraq," Mr Little said in February.

"There is no case to do so."

NZN