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Scoop Audio: Govt Seachange on SAS Disclosures

By Rory MacKinnon

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NZDF chief Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae

Scoop Audio: Govt Announces New SAS Disclosure Policy

  • Scoop Audio:
  • Listen to the first half of Tuesday's Post Cabinet Press Conference. NZDF chief Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae and Prime Minister John Key discuss the Special Air Service's recent operations, and the Government's intention to be more open about the forces' Ops in the future. Click Here for the second half of the press conference.

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Prime Minister John Key says the Government plans to be more up front about the New Zealand Special Air Services’ (NZSAS) operations in Afghanistan.

The announcement comes a week after photographs were published of decorated soldier Willie Apiata seemingly leaving a firefight in Kabul.

Key originally said he would not comment on SAS operations, but in a joint press conference yesterday with NZDF chief Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae the prime minister said they had been grappling with the issue.

“A lot of information around the SAS -- their operations, their identities and their equipment -- is of great interest to the people they are trying to disrupt.”

“It is also a fact that where possible without compromising the safety and security of the operations and the personnel involved, New Zealanders deserve to know what our forces are doing overseas on location.”

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Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae, Minister of Defence Wayne Mapp and Prime Minister John Key

SAS members had not yet seen combat in Afghanistan, but the public should have “no illusions” about their role, he said.

“The SAS at any particular time could be involved in a conflict that could see them hurt or killed, and could certainly see them firing weapons.

“They’re not there to eat their lunch.”

The Government and military would inform the public if servicemen were injured or killed, he said.

Lt. Gen. Mateparae told reporters the NZSAS had been training a special ops force for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, teaching weapons training and close-quarter fighting techniques.

SAS members were deployed alongside the Afghan Special Operations Unit (SOU) during firefights to provide on-the-ground reports to coalition forces, but did not command the Afghan unit and had never exchanged fire with insurgents, he said.

Last Monday’s deployment saw attacks on government buildings in downtown Kabul near the presidential palace.

While the Afghan national army and coalition forces carried out the counterattack and cleared the buildings, the SAS and SOU had not been involved, he said.

The SOU had been deployed with a small team of SAS members to provide reinforcements but both units withdrew after six hours without incident.

Apiata and his squadmates were photographed shortly after, he said.

“The NZSAS provided support to the SOU and throughout the incident no NZSAS person fired his weapon or took part in an assault or cleared any of the occupied buildings.”

“Their role in this operation was very limited,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Mateparae also disclosed new information about previous operations in Afghanistan, largely “disruptional operations” against insurgent IED (improvised explosive device) networks.

The SAS had recently helped Afghan security forces arrest suspected insurgents who possessed bomb making materials, while an operation last year saw the SAS destroying a cache of rockets on the outskirts of Kabul.

The above audio is the first half of Tuesday's Post Cabinet Press Conference, to listen to the second half, where Key announces a cabinet reshuffle, CLICK HERE


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