NEW ZEALAND’S 10-year involvement in the war in Afghanistan has been symbolically brought to a close with the lowering of the New Zealand flag at Kiwi Base in Bamiyan.
With it brings the handing over of development and security to Afghan authorities.
The remaining 160 members of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team saluted the flag as it was lowered, along with soliders from Malaysia and the United States.
Ten Kiwi soliders were killed over the period.
New Zealand’s Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae said New Zealand should be proud of those who served, and was confident the Afghan people would continue to improve the region.
“They came here knowing the risks that service here entailed, and the dangers that claimed 10 young lives,” APNZ reported.
“They came here because they were proud to follow in the footsteps of other New Zealanders who have left our shores to resist tyranny, to defend democratic values, and to bring peace to troubled lands.”
“The Bamiyan local authorities and the community are grateful for the generous and the humanitarian support and presence of the New Zealand [sic] in the last 10 years and consider those supports very effective.
“Support in the fields of security, good governance, tourism development, education and health sectors and infrastructure have changed the face of Bamiyan.”
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said the PRT had made very real achievements.
“New Zealanders arrived in Bamiyan in 2003 under a UN mandate to a province which had been shattered – hospitals and schools had been destroyed, women and girls suffered appalling treatment under the Taliban and families had fled to the relative safety of the hills.
“Now we can look around and see the impact that the PRT has made in this region: the hospital has been rebuilt and new health centres have opened in all seven districts. Mortality rates for children have plummeted, and the same has happened to maternal death rates.
“As we lower the flag today we are proud of what we have delivered in Bamiyan. Our influence on this province will endure and the sacrifices that have been made will be remembered.”
The lives of women and children had been significantly improved .
“At the time of the Taliban, no girls received any education in Bamiyan. Now almost half the children of Bamiyan’s primary schools are girls, 38 per cent of teachers are female, and there are 2700 students at Bamiyan University, 15 per cent of whom are females.”
About 3500 New Zealanders have served in Bamiyan over the past 10 years.
All the troops are due to leave by the end of the month, with some specialised defence personal remaining for another year at least.