Tongan Soldiers are going to Afghanistan
(30 July 2010)
“Parliament Votes Unanimously to Send Tongan Soldiers to Afghanistan”
Parliament voted unanimously on 27 July to send Tongan soldiers to Afghanistan in response to a request from the British Government. The vote was taken after a lengthy and non-acrimonious debate took place in Parliament following a briefing by a team from The Tonga Defence Services led by the Commander, Brigadier General Tau’aika ‘Uta’atu.
During the debate, the Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon Feleti Vaka’uta Sevele, informed Parliament that the official request from the British Government came in a letter from the British Prime Minister in February and that a reconnaissance team from the Tonga Defence Services visited the UK and Afghanistan in May. He also said that negotiations on the terms and conditions of the deployment are almost concluded with a few areas yet to be finalised.
After the unanimous vote, the Hon Prime Minister said that Cabinet had agreed the final decision on whether or not to accept the British invitation would be left to Parliament to make and its decision to accept the invitation is no different from what the country had done before in response to requests from its friends and allies like the British and American governments. In recent times Tongan soldiers were deployed to Iraq on the request of the US Government, and to the Solomon Islands under RAMSI, and to Bougainville, on the request of the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum. On top of that, soldiers from Tonga also served in the two World Wars.
The debate in Parliament had addressed the socio-economic, political and cultural ramifications of the deployment to Afghanistan and fully acknowledged that some of the soldiers may come back in body bags.
The Tongan soldiers will be deployed in 4 contingents of 55 soldiers each, rotating over a two year period with each deployment serving for six months. They will serve besides British and NATO troops and are specifically assigned to provide security.