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Hungarian Defence Minister on NZ Afghanistan Deaths

Open letter from the Hungarian Ministry of Defence

August 22, 2012 4:01 PM

Open letter from the Hungarian Ministry of Defence regarding the latest articles appearing in the New Zealand media.

Dear Chief Editor, Sir/Madam,
Please accept my deepest condolences on behalf of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and the Hungarian Defence Forces for the three New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives recently in Afghanistan while on duty. I would like to extend my condolences to the families and comrades as well.. Unfortunately, Hungary also experienced this sorrow in recent years, for this reason we understand the grief over the loss of comrades.

With my present letter I also would like to respond to the official issues and pieces of information regarding the unfortunate death cases, which has been published in the New Zealand media in the last days and weeks. As we already announced in several Hungarian and New Zealand forum in connection with the statement of Prime Minister John Key two weeks ago, it is false and incorrect information that the Hungarian-commanded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) soldiers who are on duty in the province of Baghlan do not patrol in the province.

During the period of the homecoming rotation in March, the contingent left the camp on more than 700 occasions which means that they patrolled between three and five times daily - day and night - by using vehicles and they also patrolled on foot in the entire area of the province. For this very reason the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and the Hungarian Defence Forces repudiates the allegations against the Hungarian soldiers.

The Hungarian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in the province of Baghlan meets the requirements of the ISAF and they fulfil their duties on high level which is verified by the appreciations of the Allies from recent past.

We are sorry for the fact that the judgment on the Hungarian soldiers lacks the allied and comradely attitude and spirit which is very important for the Hungarian Defence Forces and we wish to preserve it in the future by all means. It is our firm belief that the published statements are not correct and suitable reactions to the loss of the New Zealand soldiers.

We intend to emphasize the following fact, namely the Hungarian PRT do not have a task to eliminate the Taliban resistance nests, because combat groups established for this reason in the province fulfil the aforementioned task. The activities of the Hungarian Reconstruction Team are to coordinate and lead the developments in the province, and the Hungarian troops fulfil their duties at a highly professional level.

Due to the Hungarian soldiers’ activities, the education, the medical service, the agricultural conditions and the infrastructure developed significantly, thus approximately one hundred thousand people’s quality of life became better in the province. Besides, it is certainly very important to maintain security that is why the Hungarian contingent takes responsibility for fulfilling patrol duties, which is the contingent’s inevitable task.

Regarding the Hungarian role, it is worth emphasizing that The Hungarian-American Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLT) which fulfils combat supports in the province of Baghlan, successfully prepared the Afghan army’s battalion ( the battalion was placed in the OMLT’s charge) for independent task-fulfilment in recent years and as a result of our joint activities the security conditions of the province became better. The Hungarian Defence Forces have altogether 400 soldiers in Afghanistan, these soldiers belong to the above-mentioned PRT, OMLT and to a special operational team, and there are two helicopter training missions (in Kabul and Shindand), logistic group and a national support unit.

For providing a better understanding, I need to add that the New Zealand contingent in Afghanistan made contact with the contingent of the Hungarian Defence Forces and suggested that they should cooperate in execution of different military tasks in the province of Bamijan that is supervised by the New Zeland soldiers. The Hungarian party underlined and made it clear that the Hungarian PRT - in contrary to New Zeland - do not have a so-called Task Force Unit which protects its own forces. Also the joint patrol is impossible because of the distance between the two contingents which takes one day on foot. The New Zealand Party accepted these facts and since then there was not made any similar suggestion, neither in connection with this recent case. It is also important to mention that the Defence Ministers of the two countries had already met in the frame of bilateral meeting on two occasions and the Minister of Defence of New Zealand did not mention any objection concerning the performance of the Hungarian soldiers. Besides the high-level meetings several relations were established by the two reconstruction teams and on tactical level the cooperation, the relationship and the daily information exchange can be described as a good one.

Sir/Madam, in order to take into consideration the friendship of the two nations and of our soldiers on duties in Afghanistan and also in the interest of the balanced information towards the New Zealand public opinion, I kindly ask you to publish my present letter in full version or its main points.
Yours sincerely,

Anikó Farkas
Chief of Public Information Office
Ministry of Defence of Hungary
August 21, 2012
Hungary, Budapest

(Ministry of Defence)


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