New Zealand Prime Minister John Key vowed
Wednesday that his country’s first combat death in Afghanistan would
not affect its military commitment to the region.
“I don’t think we should cut and run from there today,” he said
after being told of the death of Lieutenant Timothy Andrew O’Donnell,
28, in an ambush in Bamiyan province.
Key was in Vanuatu attending a regional Pacific summit.
O’Donnell died when a bomb was detonated under a routine patrol in
a north-east region of the province that Key said was notorious for
An Afghan interpreter was also killed and two other New Zealanders
seriously wounded when the patrol was also attacked by
rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.
The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Jerry
Mateparae, told a news conference in Wellington that their injuries
were serious but not thought life-threatening.
Key ordered flags on all government and public buildings to be
flown at half-mast in memory of O’Donnell, the first New Zealander to
die in Afghanistan since a Provincial Reconstruction Team of about
140 went to Bamiyan in August 2003.
Key said most of Bamiyan province was considered to be relatively
safe. “Bamiyan is, I think, an example of where we can hand back
control to the people of Afghanistan.
“We have been working to make that a reality. It’s not my view
that we should withdraw quicker because of today’s tragic events,” he
“I think that would do a great disservice to the thousands of
New Zealanders who’ve served in Bamiyan and who have put in so much
energy, effort and commitment to get the province to a point where we
can hand it over in a controlled way.”
Key said he was still considering whether about 80 Special Air
Service soldiers posted to Kabul would remain in Afghanistan beyond
March. That decision would be made by the end of the year.