20 Apr 2009

No decision yet on request for SAS troops in Afghanistan

10:51 pm on 20 April 2009

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the Government will not send SAS troops to Afghanistan while a review of military operations there is being carried out.

The United States asked for more New Zealand troops at about the same time as Mr McCully met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this month.

The New Zealand Defence Force already has a reconstruction team in Bamiyan province in Afghanistan.

Mr McCully told Morning Report that sending the SAS troops before the review is completed would defeat the purpose of carrying it out.

He said the review is to look at the long-term plan in Afganistan and resources and issues in the region.

Mr McCully said both Washington and NATO understand New Zealand's position.

SAS forces have served in Afghanistan three times already. New Zealand troops are also serving in Timor Leste and Solomon Islands.

The review is due to be completed by August. A presidential election is to be held in Afghanistan on 20 August.

Key wants NZ troops out

The Prime Minister John Key says he would personally like to see New Zealand troops out of Afghanistan.

Mr Key says the Government is considering the US request but says it is not something New Zealand would commit to lightly.

He says the Defence Force is reviewing its commitment in Afghanistan and says the deployment is a considerable contribution.

Mr Key says the situation in Afghanistan is becoming more unstable and any further New Zealand commitment would be part of long-term exit strategy.