22 Dec 2011

Labour says SAS should never be sent back

4:00 pm on 22 December 2011

The Labour Party says the SAS should not be redeployed to Afghanistan at any time in the future.

The Prime Minister, John Key, has confirmed that the current SAS team deployed in Kabul will come home in March.

Mr Key says the Government has not ruled out a further deployment or other niche contributions at a later date, but says it is unlikely.

Labours foreign affairs spokesperson, Phil Goff, says Labour flatly does not support the SAS being sent back.

He says his party's position is clear: the current government in Afghanistan is corrupt, it cannot win the hearts and minds of its own people, "and we can't win the war for them".

The Green Party's defence spokesperson, Kennedy Graham, says any future deployments will need a transparent legal mandate.

He says that was not the case with Afghanistan, where the SAS had a "very woolly mandate" and should have left long ago.

Key praises 'courage and professionalism'

Mr Key, who has been signalling the end of the deployment for some time, says the SAS has achieved the job it was sent to do - training a crisis response unit in Kabul - and done it to the very highest of standards.

Tragically, he says, it also paid the highest price: Corporal Doug Grant and Lance-Corporal Leon Smith were killed in action there.

Mr Key says he is grateful to the SAS for its courage and professionalism over the course of the two-and-half-year deployment.

The army's Provincial Reconstruction Team will continue working in Bamyan province, where it has been stationed since 2003.