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NZealand calls time on mission in Iraq, Pope wants to visit Iraq in 2020

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New Zealand will begin scaling back its non-combat mission in Iraq next month and bring home the last of its troops by mid-2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.



Wellington deployed troops on a “behind-the-wire” training mission in 2015 to boost the ability of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to fight the Islamic State group.



Ardern said the small contingent of troops, currently 95, who have been working alongside the Australian army at the Taji military base north of Baghdad, had completed their mission.



“When it comes to Iraq, it’s time to go,” Ardern said, adding that 44,000 ISF personnel had been trained at the base.



“The New Zealand and Australian troops at Taji have worked hard, not only to provide training, but also to ensure that the ISF are well placed to take over this commitment at Taji in the near future.”



She said New Zealand troop numbers at Taji would fall to 75 next month, then 45 in January 2020, before the withdrawal in June next year.



Defence Minister Ron Mark added that New Zealand would be reducing its troop numbers alongside their Australian counterparts.



Australia has yet to make a formal announcement on any downsizing of troop numbers in Iraq.



An Australian defence department spokesman did not confirm Mark’s comments, only saying that “we will continue to work closely with New Zealand as it gradually draws down its footprint in Iraq”.



Australia regularly reviews its overseas operations, taking into account the needs of the Iraqi government and the operational context on the ground,” the spokesman added in a statement to AFP.



Pope says wants to visit Iraq in 2020
Vatican City (AFP) June 10, 2019 -
Pope Francis said Monday he wants to visit Iraq as early as next year in spite of the security conditions.



“An insistent thought accompanies me when I think about Iraq, where I want to go next year, so that it can look to the future through peaceful and shared participation in the construction of the common good,” Francis told a Vatican audience.



The pope voiced hope that Iraq “does not return to the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts between regional powers.”



Iraq has been a battleground for competing forces, including the jihadist Islamic State group, since the US-led ouster of president Saddam Hussein in 2003.



Vatican number two Cardinal Pietro Parolin warned in January that a papal trip to Iraq imposed a “minimum of conditions” that “are not currently met”.



Discussing terrorism, the Vatican secretary of state said the Iraqi authorities confirmed that “the roots of this phenomenon are still present”.



Francis has made boosting ties between Christianity and Islam a cornerstone of his papacy.



He has this year visited Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.



The pope has already visited several Muslim countries, including Turkey in 2014, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Egypt in 2017.



Pope Francis moved quickly after his election in 2013 to make overtures to Jews and Muslims, inviting two old friends from Buenos Aires — a rabbi and a Muslim professor — on a trip to the Middle East where he condemned religious hatred.


Related Links

Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century



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IRAQ WARS
NATO Iraq mission not disrupted by Iran tension: commander

Brussels (AFP) June 6, 2019

The head of the NATO mission in Iraq insisted Thursday that the recent increase in tension between the US and Iran has not hampered the alliance’s work in the country.

Washington ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from its Baghdad embassy last month due to an alleged growing threat from Iranian-linked Iraqi militias, while Germany and the Netherlands suspended their training missions.

But Canadian General Dany Fortin, who leads NATO’s 500-strong training and advisory mission in Iraq, … read more






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