John Key feels 'intimately involved' with Iraq operation

John Key feels 'intimately involved' with Iraq operation

Prime Minister John Key is safely in Dubai after a top-secret trip to Iraq to visit the Kiwi troops he sent there.

It's the frontline of New Zealand's war in Iraq where troops are training Iraqi soldiers – showing them the "Kiwi way" to fight Islamic State (IS).

There are 104 New Zealand soldiers at Camp Taji running the training ground for the battleground.

"I look at what would I be doing if this was New Zealand, you know, would I be wanting people to help us so we could take the fight to the enemy?" a New Zealand soldier told 3 News.

"Jundi" is the term used for Iraqi troops, and 2100 have been trained in the past six months by the joint Anzac force.

Some are raw recruits, while others are experienced soldiers. They have five more weeks of training before they join the war against IS.

Camp Taji is 36 square kilometres – its size and distance make it relatively safe from attacks.

Insider attacks where trainees shoot trainers were deemed the main threat for New Zealand troops – but there hasn't been a single attempt.

But close protection guardian angels are always on watch. 

"Our force protection is always designed for a worst-case," says NZDF chief Lieutenant General Tim Keating.

"Our greatest protection has been the affinity that our people have grown with the Iraqi people under training."

New Zealand's presence is its military commitment to the war against IS – and John Key was there to show his personal commitment.

"As the person who fundamentally signs off at a very personal level of whether this happens or not, you know I feel very intimately involved with this operation," Mr Key told 3 News.

There was a proper state welcome for New Zealand from Iraq and its Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

While IS isn't weakening, Mr Key's resolve is strong – our troops will be out after two years.

3 News