'We've served long enough'

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2012

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New Zealand soldiers have been serving in Afghanistan "long enough" and the loss of five soldiers in two weeks will be an important factor in determining New Zealand's role in the war-torn country, a political academic says.

University of Canterbury political science professor Alex Tan said deaths were "a heavy hit" for a proportionally small New Zealand reconstruction team.

He said the casualties would be "an important variable" in the Government's decision-making over withdrawing forces, despite Prime Minister John Key saying this was not the case.

"Casualty is an important variable in the consideration of any government," Tan said.

"If you only have 30, 40, 50 of us over there, that's 10 per cent."

Tan said New Zealand had not shied away from its collective responsibility as a United Nations member and "we have paid it in blood".

The Government would follow the lead of other countries in handing the responsibility for the reconstruction to the Afghan Government, he said. "[United States President] Barack Obama has been saying we are ready to pull out. New Zealand and the world community cannot be there forever," he said.

"We've been there since 2003. From the Government's perspective, we're a small country and we've been participating long enough."

Tan said the Taleban may have targeted the soldiers because of the success of their reconstruction efforts in Bamiyan.

"We are in an area where we have actually changed the lives of local people."

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- The Press

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