PM English could face tough decisions on deployments

Prime Minister Bill English may be forced into a tough situation regarding troops on deployment in warzones.

Mr English met with NATO counterparts in Belgium where the alliance stated their forces should stay in Afghanistan for a "long time".

The pressure was softened with compliments from the alliance's top gun, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"You have an excellent background for being Prime Minister," he told Mr English.

"I really appreciate that you decided to come and visit NATO."

The biggest decision a Prime Minister will make is whether to send troops to war or conflict zones.

New Zealand contributes to NATO's training missions in Afghanistan, but troops are due out in June next year.

"I believe we have to stay for a long time...exactly how, we have to assess and develop as time evolves", Mr Stoltenberg says.

"We're not contemplating some big change that would require combat troops there."

There are 13,332 troops in Afghanistan for NATO's Operation Resolute Support and New Zealand has already extended their mission twice - we may have to do it again.

"Those decisions have to be reviewed," Mr English says.

"If there's changes of circumstances well we just have to take that into account at the time."

New Zealand has up to 143 troops in Iraq and if our allies ask for more it could prove difficult for the Defence Force to say no.

"The existing decisions remain as they are. There may be further requests as indicated but we just have to wait and see, it's a long slow job," added Mr English.

And given the growing global threat of the Islamic State, radicalised foreign fighters and New Zealand's part in the anti-IS coalition - the Government wants the tough guys like NATO on their side.

New Zealand isn't a member of NATO but are well-loved partners; we do our small bit to help in places like Afghanistan and in return we get the backing of the big guns.

That's serious bang for buck for New Zealand which means if NATO asks more of us, NATO almost certainly gets it.