Afghan role 'improved US thaw'

NEIL REID
Last updated 05:00 17/03/2013

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As Kiwi troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, military top-brass have said the country's commitment to the war-torn nation has helped thaw relations with the United States.

The majority of New Zealand's 213-strong Provincial Reconstruction Team are set to leave Bamiyan province next month.

Twenty-seventy troops will remain - including three members of the crack SAS unit - for up to another 12 months.

Just weeks before the withdrawal, a document released by Parliament's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has highlighted how our efforts in Afghanistan had helped thaw American frustrations towards New Zealand.

For years, New Zealand's anti-nuclear policies had meant our defence forces were not invited to US-run training drills which our Australian counterparts were.

But that had changed following New Zealand's commitment to the American-led war on terror in Afghanistan.

"Officials said that the relationship has improved as the United States favourably viewed New Zealand involvement in Afghanistan, considering the size of New Zealand," the committee document stated.

The committee's document confirmed that as the PRT prepares to leave Afghanistan, patrols of the dangerous northeastern area of Bamiyan province were no longer being completed.

That decision had been made after the failure to secure vehicles for our troops which would offer the best protection against IED blasts.

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