NZ Soldier at Heart of Bloody Struggle Against Isis
In the heart of Baghdad, a formerly unnamed New Zealander living in a shipping container in a military compound is involved in the campaign against Isis at the highest levels, New Zealand Herald political editor Audrey Young writes.
Hugh McAslan has the exhausting title of Deputy Commanding General of the Coalition Joint Force Land Component Command Iraq – Operation Inherent Resolve – otherwise known as CJFLCC-OIR or “C-jay-flick” for short.
The operation is housed in a compound that includes the former headquarters of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein.
CJFLCC is responsible for training Iraqi security forces, intelligence and surveillance, targeting and fire support for the Iraqi forces, and general advisory efforts to the Iraqi Government.
“Our mission here is really clear,” he says. “To militarily defeat Daesh [Isis] in Iraq and to restore Iraq’s borders – by, with and through our Iraqi partners.
“With everything we do here, like on the ground with the military campaign, it’s an Iraqi plan, first and foremost. We work alongside them to develop a plan and ultimately it’s their plan.”
Eight other New Zealanders work at the Coalition HQ, one aiding McAslan.
What does McAslan himself do?
“I do what the boss needs me to do,” he says of General Joe Martin (pictured right).
But he spends a lot of his time engaging with the Iraqis. He meets the Iraqi War Media Cell – responsible for public relations – at least twice a week but often daily.
So what would he say to New Zealanders who wonder why we are in Iraq?
“It’s very important for people to understand that what we are doing here is actually helping Iraqi people to aspire to the sort of life we have – where you’ve got that ability for your kids to go to school, that you are not subject to a brutal occupying terrorist regime that removes those basic freedoms.
“Iraqis want pretty much what we’ve got.”
Original article by Audrey Young, New Zealand Herald, March 24, 2017.
Photo by Audrey Young.