17 Aug 2021

Former Kiwi soldier unsurprised by unfolding situation in Afghanistan

11:37 am on 17 August 2021

A decorated former Kiwi soldier says New Zealanders deployed in Afghanistan could see the Taliban takeover of the country on the horizon.

New Zealand Army soldiers inside an Australian Army vehicle during the mission rehearsal exercise for Task Group Taji 3 at RAAF Edinburgh, with about 300 Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen prepared for deployment to Iraq in exercise at RAAF Edinburgh in Adelaide, South Australia.

Photo: NZDF / Supplied

On Monday, the Taliban seized control of presidential palace in Kabul.

Their rapid advance follows the withdrawal of US forces after 20 years of war.

More than 3500 New Zealand defence staff were deployed in Afghanistan within that time.

Ten were killed while on service - two died during the Battle of Baghak in the Bamyan Province in August, 2012, and another six were wounded, including Craig Wilson, who was a senior officer.

Wilson, the recipient of a New Zealand Gallantry decoration, told Morning Report while it's sad to see what's happening in Afghanistan, he's not surprised.

"It's been coming for a long time and even we could see it when we were over there.

"There were so many parts of the government and administration system that weren't functioning and we got to see that out in the remote rural areas where we were stationed.

"If you can't make things better for the people then they're going to look for an alternative and it appears that's what's happened," he said.

He said he's proud of New Zealand's contribution to the war in Afghanistan.

"I think we did a lot of good because there's a couple of things that the Taliban can never take away and that is you teach people to read, they can then access the internet, they can think for themselves."

He said the number of Afghans who could read between his first tour in 2002 and his last in 2012 had risen significantly.

"Now you've had a whole generation of people who have had at least access to some basic education and the resources to better their lives."

Education is something the Taliban cannot take away from people, he said.

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