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New Zealand troops off to Afghanistan

Thursday January 27, 2005

New Zealand troops off to AAfghanistan

The Minister of Defence, Hon Mark Burton will farewell the New Zealand Defence Force contingent for Afghanistan at Christchurch airport on Saturday January 29, 2005. The deployment of 120-strong New Zealand led Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZ PRT) will replace the current NZ PRT in Bamyan Province, Afghanistan.

The new contingent is to be led by Group Captain John Duxfield who has visited Afghanistan before and spent time with the development group, which organises tasks for the NZ PRT.

"We are fortunate in the New Zealand Defence Force that we have such an extensive array of operational experience. Most team members have been on missions in Timor Leste, Solomon Islands or Bougainville, and many of the officers in the deployment have completed United Nations tours of duty to countries like Somalia and Lebanon. We have considerable skills and experience in the team," says Group Captain John Duxfield. The NZ PRT will undertake engineering projects, school refurbishments, and local village health programmes. They will also continue with the patrol in and around Bamyan and will assist with the Parliamentary elections in April.

New Zealand first committed troops to the Bamyan Province in September 2003 and the Government announced yesterday that it has extended New Zealand's contribution until September 2006.


Backgrounder

The main body of 120 NZ Defence Force personnel leaves New Zealand for Afghanistan on Saturday January 29, 2005. They have completed five weeks of pre-deployment training to prepare them not only for dealing with the social and political situations they may encounter, but also to be able to do their core jobs in what will be, on their arrival, an "extremely harsh" environment. It is expected to be snowing heavily, and the temperatures will be about -15 degrees C.

The deployment commander Group Captain John Duxfield has an extensive array of operational experience and most of his team members have been on missions in Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, or Bougainville, and many of the officers in the deployment have completed United Nations tours of duty to countries like Somalia and Lebanon.

Their first big challenge will be the weather. For the first few months the weather will limit their operations, but they will still be able to patrol, albeit using different roads. Some of the high passes will be closed due to heavy snow and avalanches.

Projects to be completed during their six-month rotation will range from engineering projects and school refurbishments, to conducting health programmes in surrounding villages.

Afghan parliamentary elections will be held at the end of April, and this NZ PRT will be involved in facilitating the elections. New Zealand's deployments in Afghanistan reflect our government's support for stability and reconstruction there - and recognition that a failure to stabilise Afghanistan would have consequences for the global campaign against terrorism. These commitments are in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, and our support for the maintenance of international peace and security.

MORE…

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding The Deployment Of
The Fifth Provincial Reconstruction Team To Afghanistan Backgrounder

The main body of 121 NZDF personnel leaves New Zealand for Afghanistan on Saturday 29 January 2005.

They have completed five weeks of pre-deployment training to prepare them not only for dealing with the social and political situations they may encounter, but also to be able to do their core jobs in what will be, on their arrival, an “extremely harsh” environment. It is expected to be snowing heavily, and the temperatures will be about –15 degrees C.

The deployment commander Group Captain John Duxfield has an extensive array of operational experience and most of his team members have been on missions in Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, or Bougainville, and many of the officers in the deployment have completed United Nations tours of duty to countries like Somalia and Lebanon.

Their first big challenge will be the weather. For the first few months the weather will limit their operations, but they will still be able to patrol, albeit using different roads. Some of the high passes will be closed due to heavy snow and avalanches. Projects to be completed during their six-month rotation will range from engineering projects and school refurbishments, to conducting health programmes in surrounding villages.

This NZ PRT will be involved in Afghan parliamentary elections, which will be held at the end of April.

New Zealand’s deployments in Afghanistan reflect our government’s support for stability and reconstruction there – and recognition that a failure to stabilise Afghanistan would have consequences for the global campaign against terrorism. These commitments are in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions, and our support for the maintenance of international peace and security.

What does the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) comprise of?
The PRT consists of five Liaison Officer (LNO) teams supported by Infantry, Engineers, Staff Officers, Communications and Logistic staff totalling 136 personnel. The LNO teams provide a conduit for information throughout the region. The engineers are a mix of tradesmen (plant operators, carpenters, plumbers and electricians) to provide basic engineering support to the NZ PRT. The logistic support staff are a mix of drivers, cooks, medics, electrical technicians and vehicle mechanics to provide logistic support to the NZ PRT and maintenance of their equipment.

What sorts of tasks does the PRT undertake?
The NZ PRT aims to maintain relationships and establish new ones with the Afghan regional leadership and monitors and co-ordinates activities aimed at strengthening the influence of the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan (ITGA). The LNO teams also facilitate aid efforts, monitor disarmament and assist in the reconstruction of Afghan institutions (educational and medical facilities etc).

How long is the deployment intended for?
The first NZ PRT deployment to Afghanistan departed in September 2003 on a four-month rotation. The mission is currently projected to end in mid 2006. Deployed personnel currently serve in the PRT for six months; this is New Zealand’s fifth rotation.

Do we have adequate equipment for this deployment and are they prepared?

Each rotation of the PRT deploys with sufficient self-protection equipment to conduct its intended role in Afghanistan. Each rotation has learnt valuable lessons from the previous and a extensive handover period is conducted in theatre to ensure change over personnel are fully briefed and up to speed with all the changes in their region. New Zealand has an excellent reputation and is highly regarded by its coalition partners.
Where is the PRT located?

The majority of the NZ Defence Force personnel are located in the village of Bamian within the Bamyan province. NZ Defence Force also has staff officers located at Bagram Airforce Base and Kabul.

What is the cost of these NZ Defence Force deployments?
The total cost from January 1 2005 to the end of the PRT deployment in 2006 is just over $34 million.

What experience does the NZDF have in this type of operation?

The government maintains the greatest confidence in our military personnel, including their ability to undertake civil-military duties. In previous deployments – including in environments as diverse as East Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, Bosnia and the Middle East – New Zealanders have been respected for their professionalism and their ability to engage and relate to the local people. This type of task is indicative of the wide-ranging, and increasingly complex nature of modern peacekeeping operations. The last year has seen the New Zealanders serving in Afghanistan achieve outstanding results and making a real difference to the establishment of the ITGA in the Bamyan province.

NZDF personnel help in Afghan election.
New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan have been commended for their role in facilitating a successful turnout of voters in Bamyan during the recent presidential elections (September 2004). According to the US department of State representative in the area, Ms Carmela Conroy Based in Bamyan, NZ PRT are “very well received” by the locals, the PRT provides a reassuring presence, and the patrols, which canvassed most of the province, are very much appreciated by the local population.

The 94-strong team of New Zealanders, which are about to be replaced, by Group Captain John Duxfield’s team will continue the good work of Colonel Mick Alexander’s team. In the weeks leading up to the elections the NZ PRT conducted an information campaign to encourage people to vote and have their say in Afghanistan’s future. Locals were urged to contact the NZ PRT is they knew of anyone who planned to disrupt the elections. On Election Day, the NZ PRT provided escorts for the movement of votes, and also provided security in the areas surrounding the polling and counting centres.

What is the security situation?
Afghanistan remains a difficult and challenging environment, but the NZDF is ideally suited to undertake this work, which is so vital to restoring normality for the people of Afghanistan. There are risks to our personnel (including environmental risks) and it is necessary for them to be able to protect themselves. As is the case with all deployments, the situation is closely monitored to ensure that conditions allow the NZDF to undertake the tasks for which they were deployed.

How is the PRT being supplied?
The US-led headquarters in Afghanistan facilitated the initial contracts for logistic support to the NZ PRT. Resupply flights from New Zealand are also conducted at various times during the deployment utilising RNZAF C-130H Hercules and Boeing 757 aircraft.

Who commands the New Zealand PRT? As with all deployments, the Chief of Defence Force maintains full command of the NZ PRT, with operational command of deployed NZDF personnel being the responsibility of the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand. The Commander has appointed a Senior National Officer (SNO) Group Captain John Duxfield to perform a similar function for the NZ PRT. Deployed personnel will only be employed in those locations and on those specific tasks and duties that have been agreed between the government and the international coalition. The SNO would be authorised to withhold the services of NZDF personnel if any task or proposed action is considered outside the scope of the PRT mandate, compromises New Zealand’s national position, or may adversely affect New Zealand’s national interests.

How many members of the New Zealand Defence Force have served with the PRT?

To date around 550 personnel drawn from all three services have served with the PRT in Bamyan.

ENDS

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