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PM causes huge embarrassment over SAS troops

26 March 2002

PM causes huge embarrassment over SAS troops support of US coalition

Prime Minister Helen Clark's fumbling over New Zealand's SAS troops being in Afghanistan has caused a huge embarrassment to New Zealand and herself, National's Defence Spokesperson Max Bradford said today.

"Within a week of Helen Clark saying there would have to be a casualty before she would tell New Zealanders where our SAS troops were, she was instructing her officials in Washington to leak the information to the US authorities.

"Because the Prime Minister kept it a secret New Zealand has been in the embarrassing, if not idiotic, position of not knowing where its SAS troops are when 30 other countries were providing information on what their special operations forces were doing in Afghanistan.

"Now it is suggested the Labour-Alliance Government has ill-equipped and under-resourced New Zealand's SAS troops, a very serious charge. Dr Kurt Campbell, Director for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has accused the Clark Government of not adequately equipping our troops.

"During my time as Minister it was a priority that the SAS were equipped with everything they needed. They had the first call on the defence dollar because of the tasks they performed. It is immensely distressing to learn that the Clark Government is penny pinching our SAS force.

"These embarrassing slip ups by Helen Clark as she lines up to visit George Bush put New Zealand in a very poor light.

"Last year Helen Clark claimed New Zealand lived in an 'incredibly benign strategic environment' to justify the cutbacks to the country's defence capability before September 11.

"From the day Helen Clark was elected Prime Minister she and her Minister of Defence have been totally out of their depth on defence issues, and these serious mistakes only confirm this," Mr Bradford said.

Ends

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