Monday, August 10, 2009
NZ SAS special forces troops will be sent back to Afghanistan on a further three year rotation...
The New Zealand National Government decided yesterday to continue
New Zealand's military involvement in Afghanistan, and will send the SAS back to Afghanistan for another three year rotation. This is in spite of previous criticisms of their alleged involvement with torture claims of prisoners they had left with US forces. It has to be remembered that NATO is now in control of combined military forces in Afghanistan, not the US Government. This announcement came as the top US general there warned that the Taleban are gaining the upper hand. Please read further:
General Stanley McChrystal told the Wall Street Journal the insurgents were moving beyond their strongholds in the south to threaten formerly stable areas in the north and west.
Prime Minister John Key said the SAS would go back for 18 months - the first such deployment since 2005.
He said it had been a difficult decision but New Zealand had to play its part in combating the breeding grounds for terrorism.
The recent bombings in Jakarta showed this country was not immune.
However, Mr Key said, New Zealand's armed forces would be pulled out within five years under a new "orderly exit" strategy.
He said the government wanted to gradually withdraw its 140 military personnel working in the Bamiyan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) over the next three to five years.
In their place, it would gradually introduce more civilian experts and aid workers to focus on health, education, agriculture and strengthening the Afghan police.
While Mr Key said he had hoped to withdraw the troops sooner, he was cautious, saying that leaving before Afghan administrations and police were ready to take over would waste the efforts of the PRT.
General McChrystal is preparing an interim assessment that is expected to be a sober accounting of the difficulties of fighting an entrenched and technically capable insurgency eight years into the war.
He is expected to identify shortfalls that should be filled by more forces - perhaps a mix of Afghan, Nato and US.
US National Security Adviser James Jones said yesterday that the United States would know "by the end of next year" whether the revamped war plan President Barack Obama announced in March was taking hold.
He did not rule out adding more US forces to help to turn around the war.
In a break from the traditionally bipartisan positions on defence and foreign affairs, Labour leader Phil Goff said he did not support sending the SAS back and believed Mr Key had caved in to "overt" US pressure.
The decision risked jeopardising the goodwill the PRT had built up.
New Zealand was small and "the number of people we put in in terms of the SAS is not going to make the difference one way or the other".
Mr Goff said there was a high risk of civilian casualties in fighting the insurgents and New Zealand's efforts were better used in reconstruction. That is not a general view held by the NZ public, who would be supportive of a limited time frame for military involvement in Afghanistan, subject to a future review before the rotation period was over..
The decision to send the SAS back follows a government review of New Zealand's role and requests for Wellington to send the troops to work again alongside American special forces against the Taleban and Al Qaeda.
Acknowledgements: NZ Herald, TV ONE NEWS