AUCKLAND, New Zealand, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- New Zealand will deploy 143 troops to Iraq to help train local security forces in the fight against the Islamic State group, Prime Minister John Key said Monday.
Key said that New Zealand need to join the U.S.-led coalition against IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, because the country had "an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally."
"ISIL's ability to motivate Islamist radicals make it a threat not only to stability in the Middle East, but regionally and locally too," the prime minister said in a statement. "New Zealanders are prolific travelers and we are not immune from the threat ISIL poses."
The non-combat troops would travel to Iraq on a two-year deployment starting in May.
About 106 personnel will train Iraqi Security Forces at the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad. Other personnel will go to coalition headquarters and other facilities.
Opposition leaders criticized the decision, including Labour Party leader Andrew Little, who said there was "no case" for New Zealand troops in Iraq.
Little said the Iraqi army was "demoralized" and "riven with corruption."
"Yet we think that by sending a very modest force as part of a multinational group we are going to achieve what the U.S. army has not been able achieve for 10 years," he said.
Little added that New Zealand would do better to focus on economic reconstruction in the region.
Key told Little to "get some guts," and said the opposition would make the same decision if they were in power.
"But he says he'd do nothing. I don't believe him. If it's really true then you'd have to question whether he'd make the right decisions for New Zealand," Key said.