N Zealand troops to remain in Kabul: PM
PM Helen Clark said New Zealand troops will remain in Afghanistan to support security and reconstruction efforts for another 17 months.india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 11:46 IST
New Zealand troops will remain in Afghanistan to support security and reconstruction efforts for another 17 months, Prime Minister Helen Clark said on Monday.
Some 120 troops involved in provincial reconstruction in Afghanistan's Bamiyan province, northeast of the capital Kabul, will continue operating there until September 2007, she said.
"We think the assistance it provides is valuable to Afghanistan. I think the whole world community has an interest in Afghanistan not deteriorating as it did prior to Sept 11 (2001) as a haven for terrorist activities," she told reporters.
Late last year Clark said New Zealand needed "satisfactory assurances of backup" for its troops if their current command by the United States was to be transferred to NATO.
She said troops operating in remote areas like Bamiyan needed "to know the helicopters are coming" if they are attacked or need medical evacuation.
Clark said Monday that there "now seems no reason to think that the backup arrangements will not be as good as we've had" from the United States.
Defence Minister Phil Goff said if international forces were to pull out of Afghanistan, it "would risk a return by Afghanistan to being a failed state."
Extension of the troops' posting would mean New Zealand has spent some 162 million New Zealand dollars (US$99 million; euro82 million) aiding peacekeeping and development efforts over four years.
Violence from Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents increased in 2005 and the illegal opium trade continued to destabilise the country, Goff said.
New Zealand also has deployed special air service commandos to Afghanistan's frontier areas to tackle insurgents over the past four years.
A spokesman for Goff, James Funnell, said the elite troops were available to return to the region if required.