New Zealand army to pull out of Afghanistan by next April
Big News Network.com Tuesday 4th September, 2012
AUCKLAND - New Zealand's military will completely withdraw its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of April next year, the government has said, admitting that the challenges in the war-ravaged nation remain.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman after a cabinet meeting said that the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) would be withdrawn from Bamiyan province by the end of April 2013.
Prime Minister John Key had set the April deadline following the deaths in July of five soldiers in the north-eastern province of the war-torn country.
"Over its 10-year deployment, the New Zealand PRT has contributed to international counter-terrorism efforts, improved security, and the development and governance of Bamiyan province. Our success is reflected in Bamiyan's position as a leader in the transition process," Coleman told reporters.
"The timetable announced today reflects weeks of careful logistical planning, especially since news that the Bamiyan airport will not be available to Hercules flights after April 2013, due to a major upgrade of the runway."
Coleman said that the New Zealand departure from Afghanistan has been planned in coordination with the overall transition plan of the coalition's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The defence minister said that the challenges in Afghanistan remain though much has been achieved.
"We should not underestimate the challenges Afghanistan will continue to face. We should also acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who have lost their lives while on active service in the province," Coleman said.
New Zealand's forces in Afghanistan includes four deployments of SAS soldiers. The PRT has been in Bamiyan for 10 years.
The 35-strong SAS unit pulled out of Kabul in March, leaving the PRT in Bamiyan as the last of the Kiwi military contingent in the country.
New Zealand's death toll in Afghanistan doubled last month to 10 after two separate incidents in which two and then three Kiwis were killed.
It's understood one or two SAS may have been considered for re-deployment to Afghanistan after the deaths.
Foreign Minister McCully said the New Zealand remains committed to the development of Afghanistan.
"We will continue to support Afghanistan to ensure the progress made by the international community is sustained. New Zealand's legacy in Afghanistan depends on this," McCully said.