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Prime Minister Farewells Afghanistan Deployment

Prime Minister Farewells Afghanistan Deployment

Prime Minister Helen Clark is attending the farewell of New Zealand Defence Force personnel going to Afghanistan from Christchurch this morning.

Around one hundred NZDF personnel will spend a year in the Bamian province, leading one of four Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) established in Afghanistan.

PRTs were established in 2002 to help the transitional government under President Hamid Karzai extend its influence beyond Kabul. They promote reconstruction in their areas, and assess civil, political and military reform efforts through community engagement.

"New Zealand has been involved in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the military campaign against terrorism since late 2001. Other contributions have included the deployment of the SAS for a year, sending the frigates Te Kaha and Te Mana and an Air Force Orion to work in the Gulf of Oman, and the deployment of an Hercules C130 plane based in Kyrgyzstan," Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark said that while the overall security environment in Afghanistan is difficult, the Bamian region is relatively more stable than other parts of the country. There has long been strong sentiment against the Taliban in the area.

"I am confident that the New Zealanders leaving for Afghanistan will represent New Zealand well. The government respects their professionalism, and wishes each of those departing today a satisfying deployment and a safe return.

"The contingent will strengthen New Zealand's ties with Bamian. A number of the Afghan refugees from the Tampa came from Bamian and several have been involved in pre-deployment training of the New Zealand PRT.

"NZDF will take up the command of the Bamian PRT next month," Helen Clark said.

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