23 Nov 2010

Bamyan withdrawal could start next year

8:41 am on 23 November 2010

New Zealand could start to withdraw troops from its provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Bamyan province from as early as next year.

Countries with troops in Afghanistan met in Lisbon at the weekend and agreed to start handing over control of security to Afghan troops from 2011, not 2014 as originally planned.

Prime Minister John Key says he has not yet been briefed by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, who was at the meeting.

But he says information he had seen previously puts Bamyan at the top of the list of areas that should be handed over to Afghan control.

Mr Key says New Zealand is keen to start withdrawing troops, but it does not want to undermine the progress in Bamyan.

Earlier, NATO's top civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwell, suggested the capital Kabul was safer for children than London, Glasgow or New York because Afghan society was more family-oriented - remarks that have attracted criticism.

Candidates disqualified

Electoral officials have disqualified 19 candidates who won seats in Afghanistan's parliamentary election.

The candidates were disqualified as part of a probe by the Electoral Complaints Commission into widespread claims of voting irregularities.