New Zealand's deployment of 106 Defence Force personnel to a military base in Iraq will include just 16 trainers, the New Zealand Defence Force chief confirmed this afternoon.
Every Defence Force member sent to Taji Base outside Baghdad will be armed, officials said, confirming that insider attacks from Iraqi Army was one of several risks they would face.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating revealed further details about the deployment in a press conference this afternoon, following Prime Minister John Key's confirmation in Parliament that Government would send up to 143 personnel to Iraq in a training role for up to two years.
Lt Gen Keating would not reveal the breakdown of roles among this group, but said 16 of the 106 personnel based at Taji would be specialist trainers.
The rest of the group was made up of logistics support and force protection, though he noted that the whole force had a mandate to provide some training.
"In the true tradition of the Defence Force, we do multi-tasking. But it doesn't mean we will take vital people away from other parts of the mission. The 16 specialised trainers are at the front end of that training delivery."
Another 37 NZDF personnel would be based at other locations in the Middle East - including Baghdad - to create a supply line for the troops at the military base.
Every staff member in Iraq would be armed and would retain the right to self-defence.
The NZDF did not have status of forces agreement in place, but Lt Gen Keating said this was just one legal framework for engaging force in another country, and other options were being considered.
He confirmed that the SAS would not play a role in Iraq, but said they could be called on a later stage.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force was likely to support the deployment, though it was not yet known where any aircraft would land.
New Zealand spy agencies the Government Communications and Security Bureau (GCSB) and Security Intelligence Service (SIS) would not assist with finding targets for airstrikes.
Mr Key said this morning these agencies could provide information to protect New Zealand troops "behind the wire".
Lt Gen Keating would not comment on whether a risk assessment by the Defence Force found that it was likely that New Zealand soldiers could be killed while in Iraq.
"You know as well as I do that Iraq is a very dangerous place and part of our training ... is that we've taken every prudent step available to ensure they're safe," he said.
Asked how much faith he had in Iraqi forces, Lt Gen Keating said New Zealand had a long track record in training inexperience forces, such as in Afghanistan.
"It doesn't matter what you start with," he said. "We will start with anything and work towards our mission to develop a professional Iraqi Defence Force."
Mr Key said it was Government's intention for the deployment to last no longer than two years.
This timeframe was consistent with US President Barrack Obama's commitment, Mr Key said, and allowed a reasonable amount of time to make a difference in training Iraqi troops.
Mr Key concluded the press conference with a stinging attack on Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little, saying that the Labour leader would have made exactly the same decision to deploy trainers if he was in the Prime Minister's shoes.