Government denies SAS in Iraq

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (Newshub)
Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (Newshub)

The Government has denied reports that the SAS is in a combat role in Iraq calling in airstrikes.

The Guardian is reporting that New Zealand is among several SAS units active in northern Iraq.

"The British, Australian and New Zealand SAS are all active in northern Iraq, along with US forces, where they have been calling in airstrikes to support both Kurdish and Iraqi advances. Their role at the frontline has not been well documented, however."

But Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee insists they've got it wrong.

"I am not going to discuss operational details, however it is incorrect to say we have SAS calling in air strikes, or involved in any other combat operations in Iraq," he said.

He did not rule out the SAS being deployed in Iraq completely, however, just not in combat roles.

"As the Prime Minister has said publicly the Government has ruled out sending SAS, or any troops into combat roles in Iraq," he said.

"We have also been clear that special forces could be deployed for short periods - for example, to provide advice on issues like force protection or to help with high profile visits, as they have many time before."


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