Pull troops out early: Opposition

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 10:14 20/08/2012
Phil Goff
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
PHIL GOFF: "There is nothing further we can do to influence outcomes in Bamiyan or in Afghanistan."
KENNEDY GRAHAM
MARTIN DE RUYTER/Nelson Mail
KENNEDY GRAHAM: The original mandate of the Provincial Reconstruction Team had weakened.

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Opposition parties are calling for New Zealand troops to come home from Afghanistan early, following the deaths of three Kiwi soldiers yesterday.

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman and former defence minister Phil Goff said the deaths made it more important for New Zealand to withdraw.

"It's not a case of cutting and running, it's a case of managing an orderly transition out of Bamiyan which the Government should have been embarking on already."

New Zealand had done everything it could in the province.

"There is nothing further we can do to influence outcomes in Bamiyan or in Afghanistan. To justify sacrifice, you've got to have obtainable objectives.

"Things are going backwards in Afghanistan, not forwards. Not because of what our guys are doing but because the [Afghanistan] government has failed utterly to win the support of its own people."

Goff believed the recent deaths had influenced the Government's decision to consider bringing the troops home early next year.

"[Today] is the first time [Prime Minister John Key] has made any statement about it being early next year, not late next year. Just a week ago he was talking about extending the operation into Baghlan. That's hardly the actions of someone intending to withdraw the people on the ground early."

Goff, who lost a nephew serving with the US in Afghanistan, said his heart went out to the families of the soldiers.

"It's heartbreaking for them, it's devastating for the Defence Force and it's a real tragedy for New Zealand. It's probably the biggest loss in any one day that New Zealand has suffered in over half a century."

Labour leader David Shearer added his weight to Goff's comments, saying the troops must be brought home as soon as practicable.

"New Zealand can be proud of the contribution it has made in the Bamiyan province to assist the lives of the local people. However the ability of our troops to continue to make a real difference there is undermined by the corruption of the Karzai regime."

The three troops had given their lives to serve their country, he said.

"Their sacrifice will always be respected and remembered."

Following the deaths of Durrer and Pralli, the Greens were the fist political party to call for New Zealand troops to be brought home early.

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Greens defence spokesman Kennedy Graham said earlier this month the original mandate of the Provincial Reconstruction Team had weakened.

"Basically a civil war has now emerged and the legitimacy of the Karzai Government has eroded since the early days."

The New Zealanders had done some great work in Bamiyan province, such as building schools, but now their work was dominated by patrols, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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