New Zealand announced on Tuesday its troops will remain in Afghanistan until at least September 2010, extending by another year a troop commitment that began in 2001. Some 140 New Zealand soldiers currently make up a provincial reconstruction team providing security and development aid in Bamiyan province, northwest of the capital, Kabul.
Another 10 are deployed in UN missions and other headquarters in the country. "The situation in Afghanistan requires an ongoing international program of security and development assistance," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said as he announced the troop extension. Taliban militants, whose hard-line Islamist regime was ousted from power by the 2001 US-led invasion, have greatly increased attacks the last three years and now control wide swaths of territory.
President Barack Obama this month announced the deployment of 17,000 additional US forces to bolster the 38,000 American troops already in the country.
The New Zealand troops were reinforced by 18 additional security personnel in April last year after concerns of a "spillover" of instability from other regions into Bamiyan.
Days after the decision to send reinforcements, a first attack on a convoy of New Zealand vehicles occurred with insurgents using an improvised explosive device. No one was injured in the attack, which damaged one vehicle.