New Zealand officials have been working on contingency plans in case a troop withdrawal from Iraq is needed since an American drone strike killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad last week, the Herald understands.
The Government has yet to make a decision about whether it plans to pull out 50 New Zealanders stationed in Iraq as tensions between the United States and Iran boil over following the death of Qassem Soleimani.
The Defence Force has 45 personnel currently stationed at Camp Taji, where they have been part of a joint mission to train Iraqi forces since 2015. Five more are based in Baghdad.
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The Government last year announced it would be ending the mission in June 2020, but the escalation in the region has prompted concerns for their safety and raised questions about an early withdrawal.
The Herald now understands that while officials still consider the situation too fluid to make a final call, large-scale planning for emergency scenarios - including a possible evacuation - began last week.
However, no air force planes are thought to have yet been flown to the Middle East, despite heightened concerns over a series of Iranian missile strikes against US bases on Wednesday.
Further comment has been sought from the NZDF.
New Zealand has also been in constant talks with other members of the Coalition to Defeat ISIS about the future of operations in the region, including at an emergency meeting held after Soleimani's killing.
The Government earlier in the week announced troops at Taji had put their training mission on hold to turn to defending the base.
Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters on Wednesday confirmed the base had not been hit in the Iranian strikes but, while saying the security situation was being closely watched, made no announcement about whether New Zealand troops would be pulled out.
"The Government has been informed that all New Zealand personnel are as safe as they can be in these developing circumstances," he said.
"The Government is working actively with our partners through military and diplomatic channels, and we continue to keep the security situation under close review, including implications for our personnel."
Defence Minister Ron Mark told reporters the Government was "coolly, calmly assessing the situation" and talking with allies.
Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp earlier told the Herald that any decision to pull out would be made in concert with other members of the Coalition.
"I think it's inevitable that we will pull out. The only question is when," he said.
The National Party, meanwhile, has said New Zealand should join Britain and Australia by keeping troops on the ground while being ready to move them out swiftly if needed.
"We do not want to cut and run unduly, leaving others to shoulder our responsibilities," opposition defence spokesman Mark Mitchell said.
Iraqi military officials on Thursday (NZT) confirmed two rockets had fallen inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.