If Bill English wasn’t preparing to enjoy his retirement and was instead getting stuck into his first full term as Prime Minister, it is almost certain that his government would be planning to extend its military contribution in Iraq. National's decision might have been broadly predictable, but the same cannot be said for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition. What the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues choose to do on Iraq presents a series of challenges in the weighing of international and domestic expectations.
The latter are not to be sniffed at. When John Key finally announced in February 2015 that New Zealand would send forces to join their Australian counterparts at Taji, Labour’s leader of the time Andrew Little was quick to oppose that decision. When the mission was renewed in mid-2016, Labour and its two current political partners – New Zealand First and the Greens - all indicated that they did not support an extension of New Zealand's military presence.