WELLINGTON, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi leaders have expressed their appreciation for New Zealand's military support in the fight against Islamic State insurgents, Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said Wednesday.
Brownlee has just paid his third visit to New Zaland Defense Force troops training members of the Iraqi Security Forces at Camp Taji, near Baghdad, accompanied by Chief of the Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating.
New Zealand had 106 trainers, force protection elements and other regular force soldiers at Camp Taji, and a small number of other troops at coalition bases across the region.
"Task Group Taji has now trained well over 20,000 troops and we're seeing a number of groups returning to upskill, as well as an evolution in the training audience," Brownlee said in a statement from his office.
"This allows regular troops from the Iraqi Security Forces to be deployed ridding Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) from the few but notable remaining areas of Iraq where they have a presence, such as Mosul."
Brownlee received briefings at coalition headquarters in Baghdad from senior members of the counter-Daesh coalition. He also met with the President of Iraq Fuad Masum.
Prior to visiting Iraq, Brownlee met and discussed regional issues and mutual state interests with Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defense of the United Arab Emirates in Dubai.