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Burton welcomes Afghanistan personnel home

14 September 2004

Burton welcomes Afghanistan personnel home

Defence Minister Mark Burton today welcomed 94 Defence Force personnel home from a six-month rotation as part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), the largest component of New Zealand’s ongoing commitment in Afghanistan.

The PRT’s role is to assist the Afghanistan Transitional Authority extend its influence beyond Kabul, with a focus on enhancing the security environment and promoting the reconstruction effort. The team includes personnel drawn from all three services: engineers, communicators, medical and logistics personnel, and an infantry platoon to provide security.

Mark Burton congratulated the PRT members for their outstanding work, and said that the PRT’s efforts would make a real difference to the future of Afghanistan.

“New Zealand personnel are assisting with support for voter registration for the upcoming Presidential election (9 October) and the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration (DDR) process. Our PRT continues to build local confidence through their contact with community leaders, gathering information about their reconstruction needs, and providing an opportunity to air any concerns.

“Perhaps one of their most important contributions has been managing the rebuilding of Bamiyan’s only university— previously taken over as a Taliban headquarters, and destroyed in 2001. Its reopening was a major step forward in the country's reconstruction and recovery, and will have a long-term impact on the stability and future growth of the region.

“New Zealand’s PRT has been widely praised, becoming the model for other nations as they undertake the task of establishing PRTs across Afghanistan. It’s also important to understand the relative significance of our contribution for a country of our size.

“Our contribution in Afghanistan was recently described by retired US Army four-star general and former Superintendent of West Point Military Academy Daniel Christman as ‘equivalent to two full US divisions.’ Clearly, have performed exceptionally under demanding circumstances.

“The early decision to extend the PRT contribution until September 2005 underlines New Zealand’s commitment to playing our part in enhancing security and promoting reconstruction at this critical juncture in Afghanistan’s transition to democratic rule,” said Mark Burton.

The returning personnel were replaced in Afghanistan by another NZDF group earlier this month.

ENDS


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