26 Sep 2012

Govt 'doing all it can' for Afghan contingent's safety

4:00 pm on 26 September 2012

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman is confident New Zealand troops in Afghanistan will be as safe as possible, despite the governor of Bamyan saying the security situation in the province is getting worse.

The final Provincial Reconstruction Team from the Army, Navy and Air Force will arrive at Kiwi Base in Bamyan province on Thursday.

Bamyan governor Habiba Sarabi says the security situation continues to deteriorate and has asked the Afghan government for more police when the New Zealand troops pull out in April next year.

Five New Zealand soldiers have died in Bamyan in the past two months due to insurgent attacks.

Dr Coleman says the Government always knew the transition period for handing over control to Afghan forces would be difficult.

"But the troops we have sent there are well prepared, well protected. They've got top class equipment. Obviously Afghanistan by definition is a dangerous mission but our people are up to the task."

Dr Coleman says the Government is doing all it can to ensure the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan returns safely next April.

The Defence Force says the final New Zealand contingent will be based in an area where there is expected to be less risk of insurgent attacks as winter approaches.

New Zealand's joint forces commander Major-General Dave Gawn says the threat from insurgents and suicide bombers is seasonal.

"It is difficult, it is seasonal and we're just going into the winter period now which tends to be the time when there is less insurgent activity as they all move back into Pakistan or just hunker down because it is quite difficult because of the snow and everything else."