SAS look set to return to Afghanistan

27 July 2009

According to the just released NZPA article, see copy below, John Key said today: "Whatever decision we make has to be made here in New Zealand in what is perceived to be in the best interests of New Zealand. That is who I answer to, that is the New Zealand public. They are the people entitled to that answer, nobody else."

That seems like a clear invitation for you, and / or your organisation, to send John Key your views about the possibility of the SAS being re-deployed to Afghanistan.His contact details are: (i) at parliament: Free post Parliament, Private Bag 18-888, Parliament Buildings, Wellington 6160; fax (04) 473 3689, email (ii) electorate office: PO Box 258, Kumeu 0841; fax (09) 412 2497, email or

A point to remember when you write, whether or not you agree with the concept of armed forces as 'peacekeepers', the SAS will certainly not be deployed in a peacekeeping role - they are, as it says on their web page, "the premier combat unit of the New Zealand Defence Force" - The Ministry of Defence's media releases on the last two deployments to Afghanistan, described the SAS's activities as "the planning and execution of long-range reconnaissance and direct action missions inside Afghanistan. They will operate with other special forces from countries contributing to coalitions forces in Afghanistan."

SAS troops previously deployed to Afghanistan have been integrated with other Special Forces in the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force under US military command. Along with US Special Forces, "six foreign nations including New Zealand and Australia, also assigned some of their best "hunters and killers" to the group" which is headquartered near Bagram air base." - Clearly not deployments that could be regarded as peacekeeping by any stretch of the imagination ...

This message will be available online at /nzsas09.htm later today.

SAS look set to return to Afghanistan


27 July 2009

New Zealand's elite troops seem set to return to Afghanistan with Prime Minister John Key saying he is sympathetic to arguments that more troops are needed to stabilise the troubled country.

Mr Key told journalists today that decisions about deployment to Afghanistan would be made in the next few weeks.

United States ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), Ivo Daalder, has upped the pressure on the government to give further help.

About 140 army, navy and air force personnel are involved in New Zealand's provincial reconstruction team (PRT) operating in Bamiyan province. The team has been there since 2003 and is committed until September 2010 so far.

The Special Air Services (SAS) has been deployed there three times, the last in 2006.

The United States has repeatedly asked for an increased military presence.

My Key said the US position was clear.

"They want to see an increased contribution from Nato and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) countries of which New Zealand is one," Mr Key said.

"Whether we agree to do that is something our Cabinet needs to consider. My view is that I am somewhat sympathetic to the position on the basis that we see New Zealanders all around the world and they are in harms way."

Mr Key said an unstable Afghanistan would be a base for terrorist attacks around the world.

Dr Daalder said New Zealand should consider not just its relations with the US, but with other allies, particularly Australia.

"God forbid there be a threat directly to New Zealand. Wouldn't it then be good for a country like Holland or Canada or Slovakia or the US to be there `for you'?"

Mr Key said Dr Daalder's words should be taken "with a grain of salt" and if read the wrong way could be taken as putting pressure on New Zealand.

"We don't answer to America...Whatever decision we make has to be made here in New Zealand in what is perceived to be in the best interests of New Zealand. That is who I answer to, that is the New Zealand public. They are the people entitled to that answer, nobody else.

Arguments against sending more troops to Afghanistan included the cost, the danger posed to troops and whether it would achieve anything.

Mr Key agreed that wider diplomatic and strategic assets could be considered, but the primary consideration was whether an increased commitment would work.

Mr Key said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had indicated there would be an increased commitment to Afghanistan from his forces.

Asked if Australia would want New Zealand to do the same, Mr Key said "I think they always would, but we haven't had any further discussion."

The review was looking at the Bamiyan deployment, which Mr Key said he would prefer to see coming to an end.

"It soaks up a lot of resources, we have been there since 2003. We have done good work there, but at some point I would like to see the mission end and New Zealand able to regroup and use its resources in other places."

Mr Key said New Zealand wanted to see an exit strategy for Afghanistan and if there was an SAS tour of duty it would not be forever.

Any deployment would be based on the same rules of engagement as previously with the New Zealand commander having the final decision on engagement.

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