Multinational Force and Observers + Egypt + Israel Flags - Source: MFO.org

Justin and the Mandators

On 31 July 2018, a little over a week from the time of writing this blog post, the New Zealand Government mandate for our 28 troops to remain in the Multinational Force and Observers, Sinai, Egypt expires. The previous Government extended out to this date in October 2016, including a surge of 35 more engineers in the first half of 2017 to improve the security fence at MFO’s South Camp, where all 1700 troops from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay are based.

I wrote an earlier article, on 20 June, noting the lack of clarity around mandates for peacekeeping operations in the Middle East. This initially arose from Budget 2018 and:

“Decreased funding of $18.176 million for the successful completion in 2017/18 of NZDF’s support, through the provision of training, security, engineering, and supervision, for United Nations and Multi-national force operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and across the Middle East.”

I made OIA requests to see what operations had completed. The answer, in short, was none. This reduction was for projected funding for current ops i.e. 2018/19. Here’s the list of mandates and their respective expiry dates provided by the OIA response:

 Operation Name* Country* Mandate Expiry*
Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy Afghanistan 30 June 2018 (now extended to 30 Sep 2018*)
Multinational Force & Observers Egypt 31 July 2018
United Nations Truce Supervision Organization Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria 30 September 2018
Building Partner Capacity Iraq 30 November 2018
* I have corrected factual errors in the OIA response version of this table to accurately indicate names of missions and the countries they operate in.

In early June, the Prime Minister announced the extension of the Afghan mission by 3 months to 30 September 2018. There has been no public statement on the remainder.

So what’s the problem?

First, the NZDF has to continue training replacement MFO contingents until the Government says stop. That includes partners, children and extended families operating on a maybe/maybe not deploying basis which is unacceptable – particularly in the context of much talk about mental health for service personnel and loved ones.

Second, this Government claimed that it would be the most transparent government ever. Has the decision already been taken and the public not told? That’s neither transparent nor acceptable and calling operational security as an excuse is garbage – we’ve been there since 1982. If the decision has not yet been made, that’s the PPP I referred to in my earlier blog post.

My guess is that, sometime this week, the Hon ‘Justin Time’ and the Cabinet rock band known as ‘The Mandators’ will decide to play the MFO gig to 30 September 2018 – given the NZDF and our MFO allies an unprecedented 2 months surety!

My suggestion for a new title track for Justin and the Mandators – “Do Better for Defence!”

Other stuff:

  1. I served in the MFO in 1987-88
  2.  The current Defence Minister, Hon Ron Mark has also served in MFO 1982-83
  3. Apologies to the real Mandators – a Nigerian reggae band I discovered while checking this post before publishing. Here’s some of their work.
  4. Since posting this article, there has been a piece about Cabinet granting an extension of this mandate till 30 September https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2018/07/23/163598/another-nzdf-deployment-extension-approved#