Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand troops who remain in
Afghanistan after the proposed withdrawal in April will have
a very different role to front-line personnel.
Mr Key rejected criticism that the decision to leave some
personnel in Afghanistan amounted to a broken promise, saying
the Government made it clear last year that the withdrawal of
the troops would not mean the end of New Zealand's commitment
He told Radio New Zealand this morning that the troops who
remained after April would have a different role to those
"It is quite a different sort of commitment we've got for the
next 12 months as opposed to having the Defence Force on the
frontline as they have been in Bamiyan, where they've been
patrolling the quite dangerous terrain.
"All we're doing is providing a bit of logistics and training
support, all of which will be behind the wire."
New Zealand's 196 personnel in Bamiyan would leave as planned
Mr Key said yesterday he was confident that the civilians
working in the Bamiyan region would be safe, despite five New
Zealand casualties in the area late last year.
Eight of the new deployment would train locals for enrolment
in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The Prime Minister acknowledged that this group was not
completely out of the line of fire given the history of
"blue-on-green" attacks in Afghanistan, in which Afghan
forces had turned on their own colleagues or international
The team of 27 was expected to be deployed until April 2014,
though this would be reviewed later in the year.
Mr Key said Afghanistan was a "changeable and unpredictable
environment" and their mission could be extended if required.
Three SAS soldiers would remain in the country in an
intelligence and logistics role.
"It's been fair to say they've been very effective," Mr Key
"They are an enabler without being the actual people who are
knocking on doors or carrying weapons."
Labour Party defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said the
deployment signalled a new mission with a new mandate, and it
was time for New Zealand's troops to come home.
But Mr Key stressed that it was in New Zealand's interest to
make an ongoing contribution to the country in order to
preserve a decade's worth of gains in security and human
- Isaac Davison of the New Zealand Herald and APNZ