New Zealand Defence Force troops are training Iraqi forces how to operate in a rural environment as remnants of Islamic State regroup in remote areas and switch to guerrilla tactics.
Although IS has lost its urban strongholds in Iraq, its remnants remain active in remote areas of northern Iraq and are reportedly behind a recent spate of kidnappings and killings.
Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said rural-combat operations formed part of a training package to prepare Iraqi forces for the next phase of operations against the terrorist group.
“With the military defeat of IS, Iraqi authorities are now focussed on preventing the terror group from resurfacing again,” Major General Gall said.
“Rural-operations training will further enhance their soldiers’ effectiveness on the battlefield and enable them to secure and stabilise areas cleared of IS.”
The NZDF Senior National Officer in Taji said that as part of rural combat training, soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 59 Brigade were trained in patrolling and clearing rural areas, and responding to attacks or ambush situations.
About 100 New Zealand soldiers are working alongside 300 Australian Defence Force personnel to train Iraqi forces to become better fighters. Task Group Taji, as the combined New Zealand and Australian task group is called, has trained more than 35,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel since its training mission began in May 2015.
The training programme includes weapons handling, marksmanship, night combat and urban operations. All Iraqi forces are also taught the fundamental aspects of international human rights law and the Law of Armed Conflict.