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New Zealand to send troops back to Afghanistan

Kerrie Ritchie reported this story on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 15:06:51

ELEANOR HALL: The New Zealand has announced that in response to a request from the United States it
will send its SAS troops back to Afghanistan.

The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says it was a difficult decision but the recent bombing in
Jakarta convinced him of the importance of New Zealand doing all it can to counter international

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

KERRI RITCHIE: New Zealand has had SAS troops in Afghanistan three times before. The last time was
in 2006.

The Prime Minister John Key says it was a difficult decision to send them back in.

JOHN KEY: Afghanistan is a dangerous place and we're deploying our elite military there to try and
stabilise the position in Afghanistan. But I'm confident that we have some of the best people in
the world and we're now asking them to complete a very difficult task.

KERRI RITCHIE: The United States made a request for New Zealand's SAS troops. When and where
they'll be going is to remain top secret.

New Zealand's Labour Party - which sent SAS troops in three times when it was in government - now
opposes the move. Labour Leader Phil Goff says the focus is all wrong.

PHIL GOFF: We've spend 180 million in Afghanistan most of that's been military expenditure. Maybe
there is some more balance to be found in the development assistance side, again, in terms of
winning people's hearts and minds.

KERRI RITCHIE: But John Key says the SAS troops can help eradicate terrorism. He says the recent
bombing in Jakarta - where a New Zealand businessman was amongst the dead - shows no country is

But Afghanistan's former foreign minister, Doctor Najibullah Lafraie, says New Zealand's decision
will only result in more bloodshed.

NAJIBULLAH LAFRAIE: I'm afraid it will not make any positive difference, but the negative
difference is there, inflicting casualties to the Afghans and suffering casualties themselves.

KERRI RITCHIE: Washington-based Afghanistan expert Professor Thomas Johnson believes New Zealand
has got it wrong.

THOMAS JOHNSON: I mean, to win a counterinsurgency we will never do it through the military. It has
to be done through winning the trust and confidence of the people. I mean, I believe this whole
notion of "clear, hold and build" is failing in Afghanistan for the same reasons it's failed in
Vietnam - because it's sequential and linear. First we clear, then we hold then we build. It's not
working because there's no subsequent holding and almost no building.

While I think putting more boots on the ground, such as the SAS will help, at the expense of the
people that are building and dealing with the local people to win their trust and confidence - I
think that that's a strategic mistake.

KERRI RITCHIE: The New Zealand Government says it's also working on a plan to scale back its
provincial reconstruction team over the next three to five years. It says it will increase its
civilian presence in the Bamyan province.

Wellington-based Professor Lance Beath from Victoria University's Strategic Studies Department says
New Zealand must do its bit.

LANCE BEATH: Well, I think we do need to, in terms of our general foreign policy stance, our
commitments to the United Nations. There is a task in Afghanistan which is worth doing.

KERRI RITCHIE: Someone who knows what's ahead for the troops is New Zealand man David Maloney, who
is a former SAS soldier.

DAVID MALONEY: It was stressful from the point of view that you were constantly worried what was
going to happen to you, in being close to various groups of enemy.

KERRI RITCHIE: So far, almost 1300 foreign troops have been killed in the conflict in Afghanistan.

This is Kerri Ritchie in Auckland reporting for The World Today.