NZ forces 'categorically' not involved in Mosul operation - Brownlee
The Defence Minister says he's dumbfounded by reports suggesting New Zealand troops are at the frontline of the conflict in Iraq.
Speaking to The Nation, Gerry Brownlee reiterated the Government line that the country's military is nowhere near where Coalition forces are trying to recapture the city Mosul from the Islamic State terrorist group (IS).
"Look, I've been fascinated by some of the statements that are being made by various people who take an academic interest in what the New Zealand military might be up to, but I can categorically tell you that they are not involved in combat activity.
"We have been quite open with New Zealanders about the possibility of, at times, SAS soldiers being in Iraq for personal security for visiting VIPs and also for looking at the force protection required for our trainers.
"They are not involved in direct combat or calling in air strikes or any frontline activities at all."
The Defence Minister isn't ruling out whether New Zealand troops in Iraq will have a role to play in rebuilding Mosul once IS has been ejected.
Mr Brownlee told The Nation there's been no request to help rebuild the devastated city, which has been hit by more than 1000 air strikes.
"Let's see what comes of the next three, four, six months - whatever it takes to clear out Mosul and to re-establish civil government.
"It's not something that you can predict as happening on a particular day. And then, of course, the formation of civil government is going to be a challenge as well."
More than 12,000 Iraqi troops have been trained by New Zealand and Australian forces at Camp Taji, many of whom will be participating in the Mosul assault.