4 Sep 2012

Vast improvement seen in Bamyan province

5:48 pm on 4 September 2012

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says New Zealand troops are leaving Bamyan province vastly improved compared with when they first arrived 10 years ago.

The Government confirmed on Monday that New Zealand troops will leave Afghanistan next April compared with the originally scheduled date of September 2014.

Security duties will be handed over to Afghan forces in October.

Dr Coleman is pleased with what the troops have achieved. He told Morning Report Bamyan has achieved far better security, where children are going to school, where the hospitals are working and infant and maternal mortality have been reduced.

Dr Coleman said Bamyan might not be a Western style democracy, but it is vastly improved and it is time that the Afghan forces took over.

The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan believes New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province has been a success.

Brigadier General Gunter Katz told Morning Report the early withdrawal confirms the New Zealand team has succeeded in its mission.

He said Bamyan was one of the first provinces designated for transition to Afghan forces and this is due to the role New Zealand played in improving the development and security for the people there.

New Zealand troops have been in Afghanistan since 2003. The SAS finished its deployment in March.

NZ troops now seen at greater risk

A security consultant says New Zealand troops in Afghanistan risk being caught in increasing violence ahead of their withdrawal.

Counter-insurgency consultant Jason Thomas of Melbourne said it is well-known across Afghanistan that foreign forces are leaving, so factions are jostling for control.

He said the New Zealanders are due to hand over their responsibilities to Afghan troops next month, but domestic forces may find themselves ill-equipped to deal with the increasing fighting and could call for help.

Jim Veitch of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University, says roads and other infrastructure built by the team are at risk when foreign troops leave, due to fighting between rival groups.