Expect more attacks, soldier deaths - expert

As the deaths of three more Kiwi soldiers focus worldwide media attention on New Zealand troops in Afghanistan, more attacks and casualties could be expected, says a leading defence expert.

A senior lecturer in security studies and conflict in the Middle East at Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security Studies said as news of the New Zealand military's latest casualties hit international news wires, it would become increasingly more difficult for them to operate under the radar as they had done.

Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, Corporal Luke Tamatea and Private Richard Harris were today named as the soldiers killed when they struck by a bomb while helping to escort a fellow patrol member to a doctor in Afghanistan.

Dr Jim Veitch said until this month, New Zealand had done well to keep the work it did in the region under wraps. But he said it was a mistake for people to think that Bamiyan was a quiet province because of it.

"There's not many people in New Zealand who know what we do in the province, and we do some very good development work and have put a lot of money into the area. We have been very confident of all the things we've done there.

"We haven't talked much about it in New Zealand and I think the reason for that is we haven't wanted to draw attention to what we've been doing. Obviously drawing attention to ourselves would bring perhaps an adverse reaction from the Taleban and associated groups that stand alongside the Taleban."

Veitch said a "flow on effect" was quite often generated out of these sorts of events.

"Once we started taking more than one casualty, we started taking two casualties and now three, and if in fact one is a woman then that will put us on the wires right throughout the world, but it also puts us on the radar screen with the Taleban and all the jihadi movements that we're confronted with in the Middle East at the present time."

Defence analysts across the world have predicted rebel attacks to increase as the deadline draws near for the withdrawal of coalition and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Veitch said however that it would be difficult to predict what would happen once troops had left the area.

"I think the fact that we've been there will be remembered by the people in the Bamiyan province - it will be remembered for quite some time. But the good work that we've done, it depends on the upheavals that follow.

"The changes that will come about when the coalition forces and the support that's been given in the areas of development withdraw - well we don't really know how much of that will survive when we end the conflict."

He said this incident would have consequences going forward.

"We're no longer able to hide in a corner. We've been given a higher priority status I think by this incident, which means we may take more casualties.

"Suddenly we find ourselves in the limelight and standing alongside coalition forces like the Americans and NATO forces so our chances of hiding in a corner will disappear quite rapidly."

Veitch said it was a "myth" to think increasing rebel attacks were in someway linked with the end of Ramadan.

"We like to say that because we're looking for reasons to why now and not last week. If we're talking about the end of  Ramadan which is ending now and suddenly people picking up their guns to go off an create things we're going to be in worse situations.

"I don't think Ramadan is a big factor in these things. I think people fight in Ramadan and they often use our thinking about Ramadan as an excuse for doing what they want to do, and that is to kill in order to draw attention to anger and revenge.

"Some of the attitudes we have toward the Muslim world are myths, complete myths. We create them in order to try and understand things but... having moved around the Muslim world I know that the propaganda we have is not really helpful."