Wellington: New Zealand will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 2013, a year earlier than previously scheduled, the government announced Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the transition to Afghan forces in Bamyan province will be formally concluded later this year, and the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) would be withdrawn in 2013.
McCully made the announcement at a NATO summit in Chicago.
He said the earlier transition and withdrawal "reflects the outstanding work that New Zealand PRT personnel have done to prepare the province for transition to local control", Xinhua reported.
McCully said he has discussed the new timetable with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, Afghan ministers and other partners.
New Zealand-funded agricultural projects and a new solar energy plant will be substantively completed by then, he said.
New Zealand will continue contributing to the international effort in Afghanistan, offering a small number of training officers to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy. It will also provide for three years a sum of $2 million a year to the Afghan National Security Force for projects in Bamyan.
New Zealand has 140 troopers currently serving in Bamyan, focusing on security and training of the Afghan National Police. The province was the first to return to Afghan control last year.
New Zealand's special forces unit, the Special Air Service Group, ended its deployment in Afghanistan in March. Five New Zealand soldiers have died in the country so far.
First Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 20:13