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New Zealand will continuew in Iraq and Afghanistan

23 February 2004 Media Statement

New Zealand will continue humanitarian and reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanistan

In keeping with the government’s commitment to ongoing humanitarian and reconstruction work overseas, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Minister of Defence Mark Burton today confirmed the next phase in two key Defence Force deployments.

“It is clear, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, that there continues to be a need for the kind of civil reconstruction and support that New Zealand has offered over the past months. In response to this need, we are taking this early opportunity to confirm that the New Zealand Defence Force will continue to lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, for a further twelve months, through to September 2005,” Helen Clark said.

“The engineering detachment of 61 NZDF personnel in Iraq will also undertake a second six-month rotation. This will complete New Zealand’s deployment to work alongside the United Kingdom and other countries, which are currently engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction tasks in Southeast Iraq.”

Minister of Defence Mark Burton said that the early confirmation of these deployments was important for forward planning for the NZDF as a whole.

“As we have always made clear, it is vital to deploy New Zealand’s specialist defence resources where they can be most useful. Our service men and women have once again proved their international reputation for excellence, and today’s announcement is part of ensuring that we manage all of our resources so that their contributions around the world continue to meet that reputation.

“Both Iraq and Afghanistan are challenging environments, and, as is the case with all deployments, the situations will be continue to be closely monitored to ensure the NZDF can continue to undertake the tasks for which they were deployed.”

Prime Minister Helen Clark also praised the achievements of both deployments.

“Our service personnel have clearly made a real impact on the lives of local people and communities. In Afghanistan, the NZDF team have worked effectively to assist the Afghan government to extend its influence beyond Kabul, and built local confidence through making contact with community leaders, gathering information about their reconstruction needs, and providing an opportunity to air any concerns. Our personnel have also made excellent contributions to practical reconstruction projects, such as managing the rebuilding of Bamiyan’s only university.

“In Iraq, our engineers have made important contributions to restoring and establishing core services. They have brought clean drinking water to 200,000 people for the first time in a generation, refurbished schools, repaired bridges, and surveyed and mapped mine fields. During this final six-month rotation, the NZDF will continue this vital humanitarian and reconstruction work.”

Mark Burton said that the second rotation of personnel to Iraq will leave New Zealand in March and return in October. The final twelve-month deployment to Afghanistan will commence in September.

ENDS

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