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Little praises NZ troops in Iraq

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/04/2016
Labour party leader, Andrew Little. © Getty Image Labour party leader, Andrew Little.

Labour leader Andrew Little still has doubts about the wisdom of sending troops to Iraq despite meeting them at Camp Taji near Baghdad.

He's just ended a secret visit to the camp with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

New Zealand has had about 140 troops deployed since 2015, helping train Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State.

Labour opposed the deployment, and Mr Little says he was open about that when he talked to the troops.

"I also said that, having seen the work they're doing, how proud of them I am," he told RNZ from Dubai on Friday.

"I think there's a difference between the reason for the mission and the skill and quality of our troops."

"Talking to those who are doing the training, they all said Iraqi troops were turning up who were committed and focused and keen, but there were a lot who were not."

When the government decided to deploy the troops, Labour was concerned about their safety and warned they could be drawn into a conflict.

Mr Little says he wasn't concerned about his own safety when he was in Camp Taji.

"Security is very good and the troops are satisfied," he said.

The Ministry of Defence last month released a review of the training mission which concluded the troops were making a difference.

It said Iraqi forces trained by New Zealand and Australian troops had taken part in successful counter-offensives.

About 4000 Iraqi soldiers have so far passed through the camp.

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