No pressure to extend Islamic State deployment - Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell has arrived home from his first overseas trip as Defence Minister with good news.

Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) is on the back foot.

"We're making really good progress," he told The AM Show right after getting off the plane from Copenhagen.

"Over 60,000km has been liberated, we've got 1.7 million Iraqis back in their own homes again, and we've got 250,000 children back in school."

But that doesn't mean Kiwi troops will stay on beyond 2018. New Zealand's commitment so far extends only until November next year. Mr Mitchell says there's been no pressure from allies to postpone the withdrawal.

"I've had no pressure at all in terms of how long our troops are there for. What was nice was there was very strong affirmation in terms of, our NZDF troops are very highly valued in terms of the role that they play."

Any decision on whether to stay or go will depend on what our allies request, and the situation on the ground late next year.

"We want to beat ISIS," says Mr Mitchell. "Fundamentally, this is a global problem. We've got a lot of Kiwis that live overseas, we love to travel, we engage with trade globally. This is a global issue that we should be making a contribution towards."

Mr Mitchell has been to Iraq before. He was there around the time of the US-led invasion, helping with security for the interim government that succeeded the Ba'ath regime.

"At that time there was a big challenge around morale, discipline and some of the real challenges associated with trying to train an effective security force. If we fast-forward to today, I was in Taji with [former Defence Minister Gerry] Brownlee last year, and the change that I've seen in terms of the quality of the Iraqi forces… they are a very effective fighting force."

But we'll have to wait at least another year before we know we'll be leaving them to fight IS without us.


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