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Further NZ Defence contribution to Afghanistan

Further NZ contribution to Afghanistan, international campaign against terrorism

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Mark Burton today announced the deployment of additional New Zealand Defence Force personnel to Afghanistan and the Gulf region.

These deployments underline New Zealand's commitment to supporting both nation-building and reconstruction in Afghanistan and the international campaign against terrorism.

Helen Clark said that there was a clear need in Afghanistan for assistance to improve stability.

"Without stability, efforts to reconstruct this war-torn country cannot proceed effectively. There is a particular need for support during the next few months, as voter registration takes place for the elections scheduled to be held in June, but which may be postponed if security does not improve.

"When I visited Kabul last October, President Karzai expressed to me his deep appreciation for New Zealand's assistance. These latest deployments will contribute further to the achievement of nation-building objectives and help to extend the effective reach of the Afghan Transitional Authority into all regions of the country. This in turn will enable the more effective delivery of international humanitarian and development assistance to the regions of Afghanistan.

"The period ahead is crucial for the future peace and stability of Afghanistan and in the international effort against terrorism. New Zealand can make a real difference."

Helen Clark said that ministers have confirmed the following additional deployments:

1. Re-deploy around fifty New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) personnel to Afghanistan. The main body of this contingent will be deployed for up to 180 days from 1 April. They will be commanded by a New Zealand officer and will specialise in the planning and execution of long-range reconnaissance and direct action missions inside Afghanistan. They will operate with other special forces from countries contributing to coalition forces in Afghanistan. With an increase in regional stability, more Provincial Reconstruction Teams, like the New Zealand one in Bamian Province, will be able to be established.

2. Extend the commitment of two NZDF non-commissioned officers to provide command and leadership training to the Afghan National Army to June 2005.

3. Re-deploy one Royal New Zealand Navy frigate to the Maritime Interdiction Operation for four months from April 2004. The frigate will operate within the Gulf region as far west as the Horn of Africa.

4. If required, re-deploy one Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion aircraft to the Maritime Interdiction Operation for six months, from July 2005. The Orion will operate in the same region as the RNZN frigate.


"The government knows that the NZDF contribution in each of these theatres has been greatly respected and valued, and that our forces will again acquit themselves with distinction.

"Obviously none of these deployments is without risk. Nonetheless it is the government's assessment that further New Zealand contributions are warranted to support both Afghanistan and the international campaign against terrorism at this time," Helen Clark and Mark Burton said.

ENDS


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