Wellington: New Zealand will extend its
deployment of 140 troops in Afghanistan for another year, then
start withdrawing troops while posting civilian development
specialists to the war-ravaged country, Prime Minister John
Key said Tuesday.
Key spoke after a three-day visit to Afghanistan, where
he held talks with President Hamid Karzai and the commander of
international forces, Gen Stanley McChrystal. He also visited
New Zealand troops serving in the capital, Kabul, and in
New Zealand`s 140-strong provincial reconstruction team
of troops in Bamiyan had been expected to end their seven-year
deployment in September, but Key said the posting will roll
over for another year, then start reducing as civilian
specialists are introduced.
"Over time, the composition is going to change away from
the military capability to a civilian capability, and that`s
the plan," Key told reporters traveling with him in
Afghanistan. "That will be starting in 2011."
Under the plan, about 50 troops would remain in Bamiyan,
Key said that a separate contingent of about 70 New
Zealand commandos in Kabul that had been due to leave in March
2011 may now also be extended.