Key's troops claims incorrect: Hungarian defence minister
The Hungarian defence minister has written an open letter to New Zealand, refuting Prime Minister John Key's claims that Hungarian soldiers no longer patrol in their assigned area in Afghanistan.
Minister Csaba Hende wrote of his "deepest condolences" for the loss of New Zealand soldiers, but said claims Hungarian soldiers were no longer leaving their camp were false.
"Please accept my deepest condolences on behalf of the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and the Hungarian Defence Forces for the two New Zealand soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan while on duty earlier this month.
"Unfortunately, Hungary also experienced this sorrow in recent years, for this reason we understand the grief over the loss of comrades," he said.
But he went on to say "it is false and incorrect information that the Hungarian-commanded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) soldiers who are on duty in the province of Baghlan do not patrol in the province".
New Zealand soldiers Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone were killed by insurgents who had crossed from Baghlan, which is the responsibility of Hungary's 400-strong PRT on August 5.
In the aftermath, Key was reported to have said New Zealand soldiers were facing more danger because they were patrolling areas that Hungarian soldiers refused to.
Cabinet gave approval for Kiwi troops based in Bamiyan to extend their patrols into Baghlan and Key criticised the efforts of the Hungarian soldiers saying "Hungarians don't go out at night - they might in Budapest, but not in Afghanistan".
Hende said that was untrue and unfair.
"During the period of the homecoming rotation in March, the contingent left the camp on more than 700 occasions which means that they patrolled between three and five times daily - day and night - by using vehicles and they also patrolled on foot in the entire area of the province.
"For this very reason the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and the Hungarian Defence Forces repudiates the allegations against the Hungarian soldiers."
He said he was sorry New Zealand lacked a "comradely attitude".
"We are sorry for the fact that the judgment on the Hungarian soldiers lacks the allied and comradely attitude and spirit which is very important for the Hungarian Defence Forces and we wish to preserve it in the future by all means.
"It is our firm belief that the published statements are not correct and suitable reactions to the loss of the New Zealand soldiers."
Hungarian soldiers were not required to eliminate "Taleban resistance nests", he said, but rather coordinated and led development within the province.
Hende also mentioned a request from the New Zealand Defence Force that Hungarian soldiers helped out with their tasks in the Bamiyan province.
"The Hungarian [defence force] underlined and made it clear that the Hungarian PRT - in contrary to New Zealand - do not have a so-called Task Force Unit which protects its own forces.
"Also the joint patrol is impossible because of the distance between the two contingents which takes one day on foot. The New Zealand Party accepted these facts and since then there was not made any similar suggestion, neither in connection with this recent case."
Since then New Zealand lost a further three soldiers.
Memorial Services will be held tomorrow for Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, of Kawerau, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, of Christchurch, and Private Richard Harris, 21, of Pukekohe, who were killed when their Humvee was hit by a roadside bomb in Bamiyan province on August 19.
Hende's letter was published in Hungarian online defence website Defence Professionals.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Has Home and Away jumped the shark? (spoiler)
How important is NZ's anti-nuclear policy to you?Related story: It's all good, just don't mention the nukes