Troop withdrawal 'would be waste'

BILL MOORE
Last updated 13:01 20/08/2012

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The Golden Bay father of a Kiwi soldier permanently injured in Afghanistan two years ago says it would be wrong for New Zealand to pull out early.

Steve Baker, whose son Allister suffered a shattered heel and burns when his convoy was ambushed in Bamiyan province in August 2010, said an early withdrawal would dishonour the soldiers who had lost their lives.

"We're in there to do a job," he said.

Allister, a private at the time he was injured in the attack that killed Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, is now a lance corporal and training for promotion to corporal.

Mr Baker said his son was "doing OK" but the injuries to his foot meant he would never be completely fit, although he could still carry out his duties as a soldier.

"You'd probably call it 80 per cent, it's never going to be 100 per cent."

The five deaths in the past fortnight had brought back the feelings he and Allister's mother Debbie had experienced at the time their son was injured.

"Our thoughts go out to the families. It's a tragedy, really, but sometimes that's the price you pay when you've got troops in those sort of theatres," he said. But he knew that Allister would share the view that the New Zealand contingent should complete its mission.

"That's what they're trained for. If you pull out early, it means that all the sacrifices that have been made have potentially been wasted."

Allister's fiancee Jae Barrett, from Collingwood, helped to care for him in Christchurch while he recuperated from a five-hour operation to reconstruct his heel. Their marriage went ahead as planned and they now lived at Burnham Military Camp, near Christchurch, Mr Baker said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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