Government rethinks overseas deployments
MICHAEL FOX IN THE MARSHALL ISLANDS
The Government is reconsidering the future of troop deployments after the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands, with more of a focus on aid signalled.
New Zealand brought the last of its troops home from Afghanistan in April while the military and police deployments in East Timor and the Solomon Islands have also come to an end.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the lull in operations has given the Government a chance to have a look at the future of military and police overseas deployments. A paper would be put before Cabinet soon.
"So it puts us in the unique position, or the very different position, of having a very significant number of people, not just military but also police, being deployed back at home and we have some choice," he said yesterday at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Marshall Islands.
McCully, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman and Police Minister Anne Tolley are working on collective advice for Cabinet, including the future of peacekeeping operations.
"It's fair to say that all of that advice puts the very highest priority on commitments in our own region," he said. "We would never as a country commit to anything that left us unable to respond to requests for help at home."
Prime Minister John Key has said that the Government's $5 million assistance to help low-lying Pacific countries vulnerable to water shortages was the sort of work that could be done by the Defence Force.
The money is aimed at Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati, the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands and will focus on projects such as clearing roof gutters and ensuring proper connections to water tanks, maintaining storage facilities and training water security officers to monitor water levels and increase awareness.
That work could be the sort undertaken by the army as it could also help train locals, Key said.
"We saw that for instance when they did a lot of work in Samoa post the tsunami. . .
"New Zealand is much more likely to be engaged in that than it would be having to defend itself, so we may as well use those assets as best makes . . ."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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