Timor Leste: 1999 - 2012


AK 08-0019-16.jpg - PTE Ngahere Tumata on patrol near the Carnation Sisters orphanage on the streets of Dili.

The NZ Defence Force supported various stability and security operations in Timor-Leste from 1999 until December 2012.

History of peacekeeping missions to Timor Leste:

1999: The International Force East Timor (INTERFET) was an Australian-led Australian/New Zealand force deployed to East Timor in September 1999 to provide a stabilising force for the internal conflict between East and West Timor. The main tasks of the NZDF contribution were to provide border security in the New Zealand sector, helicopter support to the force, staff officers to two United Nations Headquarters and training support to the East Timor Defence Force.

The Royal New Zealand Navy was the first part of the NZDF to begin work in Timor-Leste arriving off the coast of Dili on 14 September 1999.  HMNZS ENDEAVOUR and HMNZS TE KAHA joined ships from other countries patrolling off the coast.  Two RNZAF C-130 Hercules aircraftT were sent to Darwin in preparation for flights into Dili airfield.  Up to six Iroquois helicopters from No 3 Squadron were deployed.

On 17 September 1999, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley announced that New Zealand would send an initial force of 420 soldiers and 265 Navy and Air Force personnel.  More than a thousand NZDF personnel would be sent, this included a whole infantry battalion, a frigate and a helicopter squadron.

2002: With independence in May 2002, the UNMISET (United Nations Mission of Support in East Timor) mission was established to provide security while also developing a law enforcement agency.  It was also directed to help core administrative structures critical to political stability in the region.

The NZ Battalion Group returned to NZ in November 2002, with three personnel remaining as military observers and one military assistant. New Zealand also contributed a 22-strong Small Arms Training Team (NZSATT) to assist the developing Portuguese-sponsored Falantil Force Defence Timor Leste (F-FDTL).

2005: With UNMISET closing at the end of May 2005 after successfully completing its mandate, the United Nations Security Council established the United Nations Office in Timor Leste (UNOTIL), a one-year mission to ensure the foundations for a stable country are continued to be built upon. The two NZ UN Military Observer roles also came to an end. As part of UNOTIL NZ Defence Force personnel deployed to Timor Leste as Military Training Advisors.

On June 13, 2005 Australia began the withdrawal of its last peacekeeping troops from Timor Leste.

May 2006:  On 24 May 2006, President Gusmao approached the Prime Minister of Australia and asked for an Australian led intervention force to be deployed to assist with restoration of law and order in Timor-Leste. On 25 May 2006 the Prime Minister of New Zealand announced that New Zealand Defence Forces would deploy in support of the Timorese government.

August 2006:  On 25 August 2006, UN Security Council established a new expanded UN Mission in Timor Leste for a initial period of six months - the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor Leste (UNMIT).  Expressing its concern over the still fragile security, political and humanitarian situation in Timor Leste.

2007 - December 2012: During this period the NZDF assisted the Australian-led coalition International Stabilisation Force (ISF) to support the Timor-Leste government and security institutions, including the Falantil-Forças de Defesa de Timor-Leste (F-FDTL, Timor-Leste Defence Force) and Policia Nacional de Timor-Leste, to maintain a stable and secure environment. 

This contribution included a two Iroquois RNZAF 3 Squadron detachment (April 2007 - October 2008), and up to 180 personnel at any one time, working with the ISF, UNMIT, advising the F-FDTL, and in the National Support Element based in Darwin.

The New Zealand Defence Force still provides assistance to Timor-Leste through the Mutual Assistance Programme (MAP).  More information on this can be found on the Other NZDF Activities page.  

This page was last reviewed on 20 February 2017, and is current.