5 Apr 2013

Ceremony marks NZ military exit from Afghanistan

8:43 pm on 5 April 2013

New Zealand's longest military deployment has ended with a flag-lowering ceremony in Afghanistan.

The Provincial Reconstruction Team has served in Bamyan province for the past 10 years.

At the ceremony at Kiwibase on Thursday the Last Post was played while the New Zealand flag was lowered and the Afghan flag remained flying.

The New Zealand flag is lowered at the end of the ceremony.

The New Zealand flag is lowered at the end of at the end of the ceremony. Photo: NZ DEFENCE FORCE

Among those who attended were Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, Bamyan Governor Habiba Sarabi and NATO deputy senior civilian representative Andrew Steinfeld.

Dr Coleman said New Zealand's purpose in Afghanistan was always to support the Afghan people, and the sacrifices that have been made will be remembered.

"As we lower the flag today we are proud of what we have delivered in Bamyan.

"We leave this province in relative stability and prosperity, ready for the next chapter in its history, to be written by the people of Bamyan."

At a news conference, the minister said the flag lowering marked a poignant and emotional day, but the closure of Kiwibase is part of a carefully sequenced plan that will see the International Security Assistance Force mission finish at the end of 2014.

A memorial to soldiers who lost their lives was unveiled.

A memorial to soldiers who lost their lives was unveiled. Photo: NZ DEFENCE FORCE

Earlier, the dignitaries attended the unveiling of a memorial in honour of the New Zealand and Afghan defence and security personnel who died in the province.

The names of eight New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in Bamyan are engraved above a stylised fern and koru motif.

The chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, says it was a sobering sight to not only see the New Zealand names listed, but the Afghan names including 19 policemen.

Radio New Zealand reporter Belinda McCammon is in Afghanistan and her reports are compiled subject to military security restrictions.

Immigration cases considered

The Minister of Defence says the Government will consider any immigration case made by Afghans who have worked alongside Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan.

Thirty Afghan interpreters and their immediate families are due to move to New Zealand later this month.

Mr Coleman has met the interpreters in Bamyan during his visit to Afghanistan and said the group asked whether the Government would consider also accepting other Afghans who have worked with the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

He said the Government has always said it will act in a spirit of goodwill, but the policy is not an avenue for anyone who has spent time with the reconstruction team to use to get to New Zealand.

New Zealand will continue to have a small military presence of 27 people in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

The Government said last month that the Defence Force personnel will be deployed in several roles including at the Afghan National Officer Training Academy in Kabul and the International Security Assistance Force headquarters.