Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee says any deployment of soldiers to train the Iraqi Army will not be the same as Afghanistan, where SAS special forces charged with "mentoring" Afghan security forces ended up in combat situations.

The Government has ruled out any combat role for New Zealand, but is assessing whether to send military personnel to train the Iraqi Army. That prompted concern from Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, Phil Goff, of a repeat of Afghanistan.

Although their official role was training, SAS troops ended up in combat with rebels while working alongside the Afghan Crisis Response Unit. In 2011, SAS soldier Leon Smith was killed during an operation with the Afghan unit and in the same year SAS Corporal Doug Grant was killed during a Taleban attack in Kabul. There was also a danger of "green on blue" attacks - in which some Afghan security forces turned on the soldiers training them.

Mr Brownlee said the two scenarios were different. "In Afghanistan our troops were involved in roles to advise, assist and accompany. We are not intending that they will be involved in any of those aspects in Iraq."


The minister said he had ruled out combat roles for both special or regular forces "and I do not see that changing".

However, he refused to give a guarantee soldiers would not see combat, saying it was a hypothetical question as no decision had yet been made on the deployment. Military personnel are in Iraq assessing what contribution New Zealand could make with training -- including assessing how safe training locations are and whether there is good enough security.

Prime Minister John Key has also spoken of the possibility of sending extra help to other military operations in the region to take the place of other countries which are redeploying equipment or people to Iraq to fight Isis.

A spokesman for Mr Brownlee said no specific operations had been identified. He said it was possible New Zealand could send logistical support or equipment, such as aircraft, to pick up the slack where other countries had diverted their resources to Isis.

Mr Brownlee also dismissed suggestions New Zealand was now at a much greater risk of a retaliatory attack by Isis because of its announcement it would boost its intelligence work which can help the US identify Isis targets for air strikes.

He said the Government had weighed up the risk of retaliation by Isis but was advised the risk would not be much higher than it already was.

"Do you really think the most sophisticated terrorist organisation ever doesn't know that New Zealand is part of Five Eyes? We don't believe the threat risk is any greater as a result of this than it was."

The Green Party opposes any military role, including training, saying that by taking an active part New Zealand was effectively joining the US "war" on Isis.