Job in Afghanistan done, says Sir Jerry

Last updated 05:00 04/04/2013
Fairfax NZ
SIR JERRY MATEPARAE: "This has always been the case with us I think. We have gone in, done our job and then left."

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Now is the right time for New Zealand to be pulling out of Afghanistan, Governor-General and former chief of defence Sir Jerry Mateparae said on the eve of an official visit to Kabul.

"I think it is, yes (the right time to be pulling out) ... This has always been the case with us I think. We have gone in, done our job and then left. I think our job in Bamiyan is at about the right state, yeah."

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman and Sir Jerry were due to meet Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital overnight and attend a state banquet to mark the end of New Zealand's major involvement.

Sir Jerry said it was time to reflect on New Zealand's role in establishing a much better environment for Afghans.

He said the close of NZ's involvement was more than a political event, hence his presence.

"This is more of a nation-to-nation thing."

He had met Karzai in 2010 when he was with the Defence Force and during a visit by Prime Minister John Key.

The visit, which has been the subject of a reporting ban until today, also includes a stopover in Bamiyan province where New Zealand has headed the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) since 2003.

Chief of Defence Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall and other officials are included in the high-level delegation.

A small media contingent on the trip are reporting under restrictions imposed by the Defence Force for security reasons including a black out ahead of the visit..

Dr Coleman will hold talks with his Afghan counterpart Bismullah Khan and the head of the Isaf international force.

Dr Coleman said the visit gave him a chance to assess the "dynamics" of the Karzai-United States relationship after Karzai's recent comments about the US cooperating with the Taliban.

Karzai was well-disposed to New Zealand because of the work of the SAS in Kabul training the rapid response unit, he said.

The pull out, due to be completed this month, will end the 140-strong PRT's role in Bamiyan. It has already withdrawn from the dangerous north-east of the province where New Zealanders died in a series of attack by Taliban-linked insurgents.

But Mr Key announced earlier this year that 27 troops, including three SAS personnel, would stay on for about a year in mainly "behind the wire" roles in Kabul as part of New Zealand's commitment to the Nato-led operation in Afghanistan.

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Mr Key said the group that remain were a "a legacy contingent" to back up the 10 year role in Bamiyan province and to honour the 10 defence personnel who died in Afghanistan during that time - eight in Bamiyan and two in or near Kabul.

- Stuff

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