Greens oppose extending SAS commitment to Afghanistan

New Zealand should not extend its commitment of SAS forces to Afghanistan beyond the planned end date in 2011, Green Party Defence spokesperson Keith Locke said today.

The Green Party opposed the Key Government’s 2009 decision to send the SAS to Afghanistan on a three year rotation until 2011.

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key hinted at a possible extension of this commitment when he reportedly said that ‘The SAS preference would be to have a smaller contingent to stay for a bit longer.’

“We are strongly opposed to extending the SAS mission beyond the previously announced end date of 2011,” said Mr Locke.

“The Prime Minister’s argument that we have to have the SAS in Afghanistan to prevent terrorism is wrong.

“The underlying situation in Afghanistan is a more akin to a civil war involving warlords and complex tribal structures.

“Our SAS troops should not be risking their lives defending the Karzai regime that has increasingly shown itself to be incompetent and corrupt.

“New Zealand should instead be fostering political reconciliation, and putting extra resources into development aid to Afghanistan.

“The Green Party support the gradual withdrawal of New Zealand’s Provincial Reconstruction Team, which has done good work in Bamian province.

“It is preferable for aid and reconstruction work to be done, where possible, by civilians,” said Mr Locke.