Key must bring the troops back as soon as possible

The Prime Minister should not alter the original timetable for withdrawing New Zealand’s special forces from Afghanistan, Green Party defence spokesperson Keith Locke said today.

This morning John Key said the Government was considering holding back one third of the SAS contingent to continue operations alongside the Afghan Government’s Crisis Response Unit after March 2011.

“The Green Party has opposed the commitment of our special forces to the Afghan campaign,” said Mr Locke.

“We want John Key to at least stick to his announced timetable, to withdraw the SAS in March.

“Hillary Clinton – who is visiting later this week – might be pleased if we extend the mission, but John Key should pay more attention to the growing body of New Zealanders who think our special forces shouldn’t be in Afghanistan.

“The SAS deployment has been mired in controversy over what to do with prisoners taken during operations, given the reality that those detained are often tortured by the Afghan authorities.

“The longer our SAS is in Afghanistan, the more New Zealand’s good name will be muddied by association with a corrupt Afghan government which has little respect for human rights.

“Mr Key’s latest comments do not offer much hope that the Defence Review to be released tomorrow will signal a more independent direction for New Zealand’s defence policy,” said Mr Locke.