Govt will withdraw NZDF deployment (yes, both of them) from coalition against ISIS while stepping up war on monkeypox

Buzz from the Beehive

The Government brought news today of developments in two wars – against monkeypox and against ISIS.

We are stepping up the war on monkeypox and winding down the war against ISIS by withdrawing our troops.

Big deal?

ISIS might not notice.  The deployment of NZDF personnel to the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (D-ISIS)  – which will be maintained until 30 June 2023 – involves just two troops.

In recent weeks, fair to say, much more media attention has been devoted to the health threat from monkeypox than the terrorism threat from ISIS.

Thus, an announcement from Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall – that the Government has secured monkeypox (MPX) medicine tecovirimat – would be widely welcomed.  Never mind we will have to wait a few weeks, because the medicine is not expected to be available in New Zealand until late September.

Furthermore, Health New Zealand is working with Pharmac to secure a supply of a smallpox vaccine known as Imvanex or Jynneos, which is effective against monkeypox.

Verrall acknowledged that New Zealand doesn’t currently have any active cases of MPX and the risk of widespread transmission is low, but

“… it is important we are prepared.”  

Verrall then injected a dose of party politicking into her statement, employing a language which presumably will be understood by her target audience:

“Labour Governments have a long history of supporting Aotearoa’s LGBTQIA+ and takatāpui communities and I hope that this news will alleviate some worry for those who may be at risk if further cases occur in New Zealand.”  

Because we hadn’t read much about ISIS in recent times, Point of Order was somewhat surprised by the press statement headed Next phase in Aotearoa NZ contribution to Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

ISIS – it seems – is on the back foot, because Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare explained that New Zealand’s contribution to the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (D-ISIS)

“… will refocus following the depletion of ISIS as a fighting force”.

Accordingly, the government is winding down NZ’s involvement and our military contribution to the Global Coalition will end in June next year.

On the other hand, the government is pumping more of our money to support the coalition’s stabilisation work in Iraq.

The statement reminded us that New Zealand has been “a proud member of the 84-nation Coalition”, and the coalition “has been successful in degrading the military capability of ISIS”.

Mahuta said this means our focus is now on stabilising Iraq to prevent ISIS rebuilding in the region.

“Our support builds on the NZ$39 million in international development co-operation funding to Iraq since 2002, which has focussed on humanitarian support and stabilisation measures to respond to violent extremism.

“Since the establishment of the Coalition in 2014, contributions from the New Zealand Aid Programme have focused on stabilisation efforts, removal of explosive remnants of war and reintegration of Internally Displaced Persons in Iraq.”

The new non-military contribution includes up to NZ$4 million over the next three years.

It will support the Coalition’s stabilisation programme in Iraq, including renewed efforts to counter online communications operations by ISIS. This is in addition to the one-year extension of a New Zealand military deployment of two personnel to Iraq and Kuwait.

“In line with the Coalition’s reconfiguration, New Zealand will continue the deployment of two NZDF personnel to the Coalition until 30 June 2023, after which we intend to withdraw our military contribution, while expanding our support to non‑military workstreams,” Defence Minister Peeni Henare said.

“This package of support reaffirms our shared commitment and determination to continue the fight against violent extremism and address the longer-term security and humanitarian challenges faced by the Government and people of Iraq.”

Henare said he was proud of the New Zealand Defence Force contribution to the Coalition, and thanked all Defence Force personnel

“… who have contributed to the international effort to defeat this violent extremist group.

“This includes the initial deployment to Operation Inherent Resolve and associated support roles since 2015, including our major Building Partner Capacity training mission at Camp Taji alongside Australian and other Coalition troops which concluded in April 2020. NZDF personnel have also been employed in a range of roles in the Coalition Headquarters, including planning, logistics, support, intelligence, and legal functions,” Peeni Henare said.

Our check with Beehive press statements suggests ISIS has not been mentioned in ministerial press statements since June 1 last year, when Peeni Henare and Poto Williams, then Minister of Police, confirmed New Zealand’s ongoing contribution to the Operation Gallant Phoenix intelligence mission in Jordan.

Cabinet had extended the mandate for New Zealand’s multi agency deployment for two years until June 2023.  The number of deployed personnel remained fewer than 10.

Operation Gallant Phoenix was launched in 2013, with the initial aim of tracking the flow of foreign terrorist fighters in and out of Iraq and Syria. Over time it evolved into a platform where partners collect and share information and intelligence about potential and existing terrorist threats, regardless of threat ideology.

“Participation in Operation Gallant Phoenix began in late 2014, as part of our response to the global threat posed by ISIS, Peeni Henare said.

“Our deployment to Operation Gallant Phoenix provides New Zealand with valuable information. It helps us to build relationships with international partners, contribute to global efforts to counter violent extremism, and gain experience in a way that cannot be achieved elsewhere. New Zealanders are safer because of it,” Peeni Henare said.

Poto Williams said:

“The value of our involvement was recently highlighted by the Royal Commission of Inquiry Report into the terrorist attack on the Christchurch masjindain, which referred to the benefits to New Zealand’s security interests,” Poto Williams said

“This multi-agency deployment helps us understand and respond to current, evolving, and future terrorist and violent extremist threats.”

ISIS-related headlines are rare nowadays.

But RNZ a few days ago did record news that an Islamic State group militant from the UK had been sentenced to life in prison by a US court for his involvement with a terror cell.

El Shafee Elsheikh, 34, was convicted in April of hostage-taking, conspiracy to murder US citizens and supporting a terrorist organisation.

Addressing the Sudanese-born Londoner, the judge called his actions “horrific, barbaric, brutal and criminal”.

Elsheikh was the highest profile IS fighter to stand trial in the US.

His actions are said to have resulted in the deaths of four US hostages.

Elsheikh was sentenced to eight life sentences, served concurrently, with no option for parole.

Latest from the Beehive

26 AUGUST 2022

Government secures monkeypox medicine

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall has today announced the Government has secured monkeypox (MPX) medicine tecovirimat which is expected to be available in New Zealand from late September.

25 AUGUST 2022

Next phase in Aotearoa NZ contribution to Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS

Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution to the Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (D-ISIS) will refocus following the depletion of ISIS as a fighting force, the Government has announced.

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