'First Shall Be Last' as Iraq Deployment Ends

29 October 2013

Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Oiroa Kaihau, the final incumbent of New Zealand's deployment to Iraq, returned from Baghdad this month.


The New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) one-person deployment to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) has ended after an eight-year commitment.

Over that period senior Army officers have been posted to Iraq as military advisors to the UN’s Special Representative to the Secretary-General. They have been the interface between multi-national military forces and the UN that has enabled the UN and its agencies to achieve its tasks.

The NZDF first deployed to UNAMI in 2003, but an attack on the UN headquarters at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 left 21 dead and scores injured, including an NZDF officer deployed on a demining task within the mission. The New Zealand Government withdrew its commitment shortly afterwards.

The NZDF’s contribution resumed in January 2005, once the UN had re-established its footprint in the country, although the bulk of US forces withdrew from Iraq in December 2011. The mission has had a low profile that has been overshadowed by high levels of conflict and violence.

Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Oiroa Kaihau, the final incumbent in the deployment, returned from Baghdad this month.

LTCOL Kaihau has made an unusual and significant contribution to UNAMI. He was the first New Zealander in the role when the mission recommenced in 2005 and has now brought it to a close, serving two years altogether in Iraq.

LTCOL Kaihau says that despite only having one person at a time in Iraq, the NZDF has made a significant contribution to the attainment of UN-mandated outcomes.

"Those who have served in the mission can be justifiably proud of their individual contributions during their tours," he says.

"NZDF officers have been highly regarded in the mission for their ability to contribute effectively."

Although the NZDF only ever provided

one advisor at a time to the mission, with other nations’ contributions there could be as many as 13 advisors there at once, including those from Australia, the United States, Canada, Nepal, United Kingdom, Denmark and Jordan.

This page was last reviewed on 5 November 2013.