19 Feb 2013

Some SAS staying in Afghanistan

2:11 pm on 19 February 2013

Some New Zealand SAS personnel will stay in Afghanistan after April and will be working with international forces to identify targets.

The Cabinet on Monday agreed to leave 27 Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan when the Provincial Reconstruction Team withdraws in April this year.

Prime Minister John Key said that includes three SAS soldiers who will be working out of the ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

He said they will be helping to do the planning and logistical work to build a plan which is then carried out by troops in the field.

Earlier, Mr Key said keeping troops in Afghanistan is nothing more than was always planned.

Labour says a decision to keep a team in Afghanistan after the Provincial Reconstruction Team withdraws breaks a promise, but Mr Key said on Tuesday the move was signalled last year.

Mr Key told Morning Report the decision makes sense.

He said New Zealand has put in a decade of work and lost lives in Afghanistan, and to make sense of that commitment there should be a transition for New Zealand as for other Western states which are there.

Mr Key said Defence personnel will be deployed within a defensive perimeter, mainly doing training.

But Labour foreign policy spokesperson Phil Goff said the Government said it was going to bring all troops home in April.

Mr Goff said the conflict in Afghanistan is now close to a civil war, rather a war against al-Qaeda.

Green MP Kennedy Graham said New Zealand should stop propping up an increasingly corrupt regime in Afghanistan.