New Zealand Special Air Service soldiers could remain in Afghanistan till April after providing intelligence used to kill a senior Taliban leader.
Abdullah Kalta, implicated in the deaths of New Zealand soldiers Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, Private Richard Harris and Corporal Luke Tamatea, was killed in an airstrike last week.
He was also linked to the death of Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell two years ago.
Prime Minister John Key said Kalta was killed in an airstrike carried out in the north east of Bamiyan province on November 21.
Four other insurgents were also killed.
The International Security Assistance Force had authorised the strike "to prevent an imminent insurgent attack on Afghan security forces", Mr Key said.
Kalta was believed responsible for leading and co-ordinating a number of attacks on the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team and Afghan National Security forces.
New Zealand Defence Force and Afghan National Security forces contributed intelligence which led to the strike.
The cut-down SAS contingent which returned to Afghanistan after the latest Kiwi deaths was also "almost certainly" involved in collecting intelligence that led to the strike, Mr Key said.
"They've gathered information, that information has been passed on to ISAF and ISAF have undertaken an operation which has seen these five insurgents killed."
Kalta was seen as a "very significant figure" among Afghan insurgents, he said.
"It's not a matter of retribution but it's a matter of trying to make that environment safer for the troops we have there."
In September, Mr Key announced four SAS logistics officers had been sent to Kabul to help gather intelligence on the insurgents but were not in a combat role, and any revenge attack would be undertaken by other International Security and Assistance Force nations.
Asked yesterday if the SAS were now due to leave, Mr Key said their mandate allowed them to stay until April.
"At this point I haven't been advised they're going to come back earlier."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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