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Military presence in Afghanistan important, Goff

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Defence


10 April 2006
Media statement

Military presence in Afghanistan important, says Goff


The government's decision to extend New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan acknowledges the on-going need to support international security and reconstruction efforts there, Defence Minister Phil Goff said today.

The government today announced that the Defence Force's 120-strong PRT in Bamyan will be extended until September 2007.

The government has also extended until September 2007 the missions of two Defence Force personnel helping train the Afghan National Army; three personnel with the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters; one with the Combined Forces Command Afghanistan in Kabul, and one with the Coalition Joint Taskforce in Bagram.

"New Zealand has made a strong commitment to Afghanistan. Since our PRT became the third to be established there, in September 2003, literally hundreds of New Zealand Defence Force personnel have served there and more than $130 million has been invested in peacekeeping and development," Mr Goff said.

"Much progress has been made. After 20 years of civil war the first elections of a President and a Parliament have been successfully conducted and a new constitution adopted.

"Some 60,00 combatants have been disarmed and the foundations laid for Afghanistan to provide for its own future security. Around 35,000 National Army and 55,000 Police have been trained to a basic level.

"However much also remains to be done before Afghanistan could be considered able to maintain its own security. Violence from Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents increased in 2005 and warlordism and a growing trade in opium continue to destabilise Afghanistan and present major problems.

"For international forces and contributions to cease now would risk a return by Afghanistan to being a failed state. That would have serious consequences for regional and international security and for New Zealand's own interests.

"Stability depends on the Afghan government being able to make real improvements in living standards and conditions, and that in turn relies on there being a secure environment.

"New Zealanders can be proud of the contribution being made by the PRT in Bamyan. With New Zealand assistance, Bamyan achieved one of the highest turnouts by women voters in recent elections. The PRT has helped Bamyan secure relative peace and has taken important steps to assist long term development.

"The goodwill and support the Kiwis have won from local people is a tribute to their effectiveness and their ability to work in partnership of people of Bamyan.

"The extensions announced today will involve further Defence spending of $27.08 million for the PRT and $3.915 million to cover the Afghan Army training, headquarters staff deployments and other associated costs. NZAID funding for the Police training deployment will cost $546,000," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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