Hon Ron Mark
Minister of Defence
12 February 2018 MEDIA STATEMENT
Minister visits Middle East, Afghan deployments
On his first overseas trip in the job, Defence Minister Ron Mark has completed a round of visits to Defence Force
deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Mark was accompanied on the trip by Justice Minister Andrew Little and Simon O’Connor MP, chairman of Parliament’s
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee. During the visits the group attended top-level meetings and
military briefings, saw a variety of NZDF activities at each location and took numerous opportunities to engage with
"One of my priorities for the Defence portfolio is to increase the levels of cross-party engagement and bipartisanship
on Defence and security issues. Ensuring that this visit included as many Parliamentary parties as was possible was
important to me particularly given the significant decisions the Government will make in due course on military
Mr Mark said that the discussions and briefings he had had throughout the trip were highly valuable, and that at every
location, New Zealand personnel are essential and well-respected contributors to their missions.
“I am extremely impressed with the skills and commitment to excellence our personnel, and their colleagues from partner
nations, are bringing to the vital tasks they are doing.
“It was a great pleasure, to see them training or at work in the field and spend some time with them in camp. They are
all doing us proud, and I congratulate them on their professionalism,” he said.
In Iraq, Mr Mark held meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Minister of Defence Erfan al-Hayali and Major
General Robert White, the Combined Joint Task Forces Land Component Commander, before travelling to the Taji Military
Complex, where the combined New Zealand-Australia Building Partner Capacity training mission is based.
“New Zealand is pleased to be doing our part in supporting Iraq in the fight against the global threat of ISIS,” Mr Mark
“Our joint mission with Australia continues to track well: we have now trained over 30,000 Iraqi personnel,” he said.
Bad weather hindered internal travel in Afghanistan but the group held teleconference meetings with senior NATO mission
leaders, the 11 Defence Force personnel deployed as mentors and support personnel to the Afghanistan National Army
Officer Academy, and met the two NZDF staff who work in the NATO mission headquarters. Planned meetings with the
President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and the Afghan Minister of Defence, Tariq Shah Bahrami, were regrettably unable
to take place.
“We continue to be engaged in Afghanistan to play our part in preventing the country from becoming a safe haven for
terrorist organisations,” Mr Mark said.
“Our commitment is a training contribution to help the Afghanistan Army take responsibility for Afghanistan’s security,
and defend the country and its people against the Taliban and other insurgent groups,” he said.
In the United Arab Emirates, a key Middle East partner for New Zealand, the Minister met with Defence Undersecretary
Matar Salem Ali al-Dhaheri. The Ministers shared views on the regional security outlook for the Middle East, and
discussed ongoing engagement and co-operation.
New Zealand is currently contributing a P-3 aircraft to maritime security and counter-piracy deployments in the Gulf of
Aden, an area through which 23,000 ships pass annually.
“The UAE is an important defence and economic relationship for New Zealand, and a key partner for role in regional
stability and protecting trade,” Mr Mark said.