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Afghanistan exit needs all our attention

Kiwi soldiers lost in Afghanistan

By Russel Norman

New Zealand sadly suffered three more casualties in Afghanistan this week. With the Government pulling out of Afghanistan in 2013, we consider there is a case to be made for an earlier withdrawal.

We need as a nation to think about how to get our service men and women home safely and what we can do to assist Afghanistan in a non-military capacity in future.

Bringing our deployment home safely is not cutting and running. New Zealand has had an active commitment in Afghanistan since 2001. Withdrawing troops over a decade later is hardly a rushed retreat.

We have made a significant commitment, but the Green Party considers that the human price is now too high to stay.

The provincial reconstruction team’s original role was supposed to be one of aid and reconstruction – schools for kids, education opportunities for women – in order to assist the local Hazara population, and other residents.

When the provincial reconstruction team was first deployed under Helen Clark’s Government, the then Defence Minister Mark Burton stated that they were not to be considered a combat unit.

Since then the situation in Afghanistan has become more unstable. The Karzai Government has lost the trust of many within Afghanistan.

For their part, the Karzai Government has also signalled that they would like all the provincial reconstruction teams to begin withdrawing. The Afghan Government themselves feel that the presence of so many foreign troops within their borders may be counter-productive to the current security situation.

The Green Party considers that we have more than met our military commitment to Afghanistan; there are many other ways we can assist Afghanistan.

Becoming bogged down in a counter insurgency in Bamiyan is not in New Zealand’s or our soldiers’ interests.

We owe it to those New Zealand service men and women that have fallen in Afghanistan to continue to look for ways to assist the development of this country in a non-military capacity.

We also owe it to those currently serving in Afghanistan to look at all the ways possible we can get them home safely and as soon as possible.

Russel Norman is co-leader of the Green Party

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