Letter from Afghanistan recognises NZ sacrifice

NEIL REID
Last updated 10:11 23/09/2012
New Zealand Army
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ
THEY WILL REMEMBER: The military pays tribute to its fallen soldiers.

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Afghan officials say New Zealand's death toll in the war-torn nation will not be in vain.

Ten New Zealand Defence Force staff have died in Afghanistan over the past 24 months, including five soldiers killed last month.

After an Official Information Act request, the prime minister's chief of staff Wayne Eagleson has released a letter to the Government from an Afghan minister after the August 4 deaths of Lance Corporals Rory Malone and Pralli Durrer, who were killed during a firefight in Bamiyan Province. Six other Kiwi soldiers were seriously injured.

"Afghans are most grateful to those who are fighting for their freedom, and grieve every time a member of the international forces dies or is injured on our soil," Afghanistan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak wrote to his New Zealand counterpart, Jonathan Coleman.

"The Afghan nation will always remember the sacrifices of the New Zealand Armed Forces, the individual soldiers who have laid down their lives, together with the families who have lost loved ones in the struggle that continues in our country."

Wardak wrote that he would like to convey his personal condolences to the families of Durrer and Malone, and to the loved ones of the six injured soldiers.

In a message to the families, he wrote: "The families of the soldiers should be proud of the contribution their loved ones have made to free our country of the insurgents that threaten the daily lives and freedom of Afghans. We are eternally grateful to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, those who have been injured in the cause, and all their family members."

Fourteen days after Wardak sent the letter, fellow Provincial Reconstruction Team members Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris were killed after the Humvee they were travelling in was hit by an improvised explosive device.

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff said while the Afghan Government was grateful for the sacrifices, further casualties were not justified.

"You get to the point where you ask what else can you achieve by staying? Are there things that justify losing more people? I don't think you can answer in the affirmative."

Goff's nephew Matt Ferrara became the first New Zealand citizen killed in Afghanistan when he died in an ambush in 2007 while serving in the United States Army.

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