New Zealand troops were set to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 2014 but now the plan is to withdraw many of their troops by April of 2013. Five New Zealand troops were killed in August this year.
New Zealand Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman announced that the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team(PRT) will return from Afghanistan by the end of April in 2013. There will be what the government calls a "sensible, orderly, and professional" early withdrawal. New Zealand has already been involved in the Afghan mission for ten years. Coleman said:"Our success is reflected in Bamiyan's position as a leader in the transition process." Bamiyan is the province in which the New Zealand contingent is stationed.
The government has been under pressure to withdraw troops earlier than September of 2014 after five New Zealanders were killed recently. Coleman however attributed the shortening of the period as due to the rebuilding of the Bamlyan airport which will make it impossible for New Zealand to land Hercules aircraft there. Coleman promised that New Zealand would continue to support Afghanistan.
Future support may include a few Defence Force trainers who will work at the Afghanistan National Army Officer Training Academy. The prime minister of New Zealand John Key had been signalling an earlier withdrawal for some time. Key also said that officials of ISAF(International Security Assistance Force) had also encouraged the move.
Not all the reconstruction teams will be withdrawn just 11 of the 26 original teams would return by the end of 2013. Key said:"ISAF's view has been it's not sensible for everyone to go through the keyhole at one time."
Key claimed that the New Zealand groups had helped children go to school, improved hospital services and supported the economy of Bamiyan province. The opposition Labour Party leader David Shearer applauded the early withdrawal saying:"Our soldiers have achieved remarkable results during the nine years that we have been on the ground in Afghanistan...Staying there any longer would not have made a significant difference to all we have achieved. There is a time to leave and this is it."
The Green Party spokesperson for defence Kennedy Graham said the troops should be withdrawn immediately:"New Zealand has made a significant commitment to Afghanistan and the people of Bamiyan - however the PRT was never intended to be a combat unit..Sadly, the role of those serving in the provincial reconstruction team now appears to be focused more and more on patrolling a dangerous part of Bamiyan province, where our troops are being drawn into counter insurgency operations."
No doubt the withdrawal is a politically popular move.