NEW ZEALAND has confirmed it will keep some military personnel in Afghanistan after the majority of troops are withdrawn in April.
Prime Minister John Key confirmed that cabinet had decided to maintain 27 troops in the war-torn nation once the main force leaves Bamiyan.
Key said the deployment would be “behind the wire” and would include three SAS personnel.
The additional deployment would be for a year, although that could change.
Key told Fairfax NZ that the situation in Afghanistan was “changeable and unpredictable”.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said it was a small but proportionate commitment to the international mission in Afghanistan.
“The current NATO/ISAF mission is not scheduled to end until December 2014.
“As previously indicated, the Government believes it remains in New Zealand’s interests to continue to play our part to secure the gains that have been achieved in Afghanistan over the last decade,” McCully said.
“Most of these deployments will, initially, operate from the closing of the PRT in April, for a one-year period to the end of April 2014.”
The New Zealand Defence Force personnel would be based in Kabul and would see eight sent to the UK-led Afghan National Army Officer Training Academy, a programme likely to last longer than 2014.
Twelve NZDF personnel would be attached to the ISAF Special Operations Forces headquarters in intelligence and planning roles, three to ISAF headquarters, three support personnel as part of the New Zealand “National Support Element “, and one officer to the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan.
New Zealand will also contribute US$2 million from 2015 to the Afghan National Security Force, and would also offer development assistance to Bamiyan once the Provincial Reconstruction Team leaves.
IMAGE: New Zealand Defence Force