Green Party Defence Spokesperson Keith Locke welcomes the return today from Afghanistan of New Zealand’s SAS contingent, but hopes it will be the last such deployment.
The 50 or so personnel who landed this morning were returning from the SAS’s third six-month reconnaissance and combat mission in the troubled central Asian country.
“An announcement from Helen Clark that this was New Zealand’s last special force commitment to Afghanistan, and that future efforts will concentrate on the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, would please a lot of Kiwis,” Mr Locke says.
“Our image as good peacekeepers is compromised if we are directly involved in British or American counter-insurgency operations. With every passing month there is another black mark on the way US troops have fought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — the latest being the use of white phosphorus shells.
“It is likely that prisoners our SAS have handed over to US custody in Afghanistan have been mistreated or held in unacceptable conditions at Bagram airbase, Guantanamo Bay or in the CIA’s gulags in Romania or Poland. Such systematic human rights abuses compromise the very values we claim to be defending and further alienate the Afghan people. We shouldn’t be involved in such a dirty war.
“By comparison, our Provincial Reconstruction Team is doing the positive peace keeping and rebuilding work we want to be known for,” Mr Locke says.