10 Aug 2009

SAS troops bound for Afghanistan

7:31 pm on 10 August 2009

New Zealand's elite Special Air Service troops are to return to Afghanistan to help in the fight against the Taleban.

Prime Minister John Key says the SAS will be in Afghanistan for 18 months, in three rotations, with up to 70 troops serving at any one time.

Mr Key says the Cabinet's decision stems from a review of New Zealand's commitment to maintaining security and stability in Afghanistan.

He says New Zealand has a direct and vital interest in supporting international efforts to eradicate terrorism, and to promote peace and stability.

Mr Key says it was a difficult decision to make, but recent events in Jakarta show that New Zealanders are not immune to terrorism.

At the same time, Mr Key has announced the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province will be wound back over the next three to five years.

Instead, there will be a focus on providing civilian help, particularly in the areas of health, education and agriculture.

The Labour leader, Phil Goff, says his party's view is that the most effective way to assist in Afghanistan is by working with the local people through the reconstruction team, rather than sending combat troops.