Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman today confirmed Cabinet has agreed the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) will be withdrawn from Bamyan province in Afghanistan by the end of April 2013.
The Ministers say the announcement is the culmination of months of planning and is part of an orderly and sequenced International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) plan for transition.
The April withdrawal, which will follow the expected completion of transition of security responsibility to local Bamyan forces at the beginning of October, has been endorsed by ISAF and has been signalled well in advance to partners.
Dr Coleman says today’s announcement is a significant milestone in New Zealand’s decade of involvement in Afghanistan.
“Over its 10-year deployment, the New Zealand PRT has contributed to international counter-terrorism efforts, improved security, and the development and governance of Bamyan province. Our success is reflected in Bamyan’s position as a leader in the transition process,” he says.
“We should not underestimate the challenges Afghanistan will continue to face. We should also acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who have lost their lives while on active service in the province.
“The timetable announced today reflects weeks of careful logistical planning, especially since news that the Bamyan airport will not be available to Hercules flights after April 2013, due to a major upgrade of the runway.”
Mr McCully confirmed the withdrawal of the PRT does not mean the end of New Zealand’s commitment to Afghanistan.
“We will continue to support Afghanistan to ensure the progress made by the international community is sustained. New Zealand’s legacy in Afghanistan depends on this.
“New Zealand’s support to Afghanistan after the PRT’s withdrawal will likely include the contribution of a small number of NZDF trainers to the Afghanistan National Army Officer Training Academy later in 2013, an on-going presence in ISAF headquarters, as well as financial and development contributions to Afghanistan,” Mr McCully says.