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PM Says He May Say More About SAS Operation At A Later Time

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

Wellington, Sept 9 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key says he might at some point say where the SAS are operating in Afghanistan, but he will not be divulging anything for now.

Labour yesterday attacked the Government over its recent decision to send 70 SAS troops to Afghanistan for 18 months in three rotations, the fourth time they will have been deployed there.

New Zealand will eventually pull out its 140 defence force personnel running a provincial reconstruction team operating in Bamiyan province, who have been there since 2003.

Foreign Affairs Secretary John Allen at the weekend said it had not advised the government to send the SAS.

Mr Key said that the ministry had given advice about the situation in Afghanistan but did not make a recommendation either way about whether troops should be sent.

In Parliament Labour leader Phil Goff asked Mr Key what advice he had got.

"...no specific view was ever provided to me by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on whether to redeploy the SAS," Mr Key said.

"That decision was left to ministers."

Mr Goff raised concerns about security problems in Afghanistan and the resurgence of Al Qaeda influence.

"Is the Prime Minister prepared to see New Zealand lives put at risk to defend a regime that is known to be endemically corrupt, that is widely suspected of huge electoral fraud in the recent election, that is working today in conjunction with warlords known to have committed gross human rights abuses, and is known to be linked to criminal groups involved in drug trafficking; if so, why did he make the decision to recommit SAS troops?"

Mr Key said the government decided the best way to avoid the return of a Taliban regime was to send forces.

Labour preferred retaining the Bamiyan personnel.

Mr Goff, who backed the deployment of the SAS in the past, said a lot had changed in the last three years.

Mr Key said the alternative was to leave Afghanistan to an oppressive Taliban led regime.

Asked if he would follow Australia's lead and more open about what troops were doing in Afghanistan, Mr Key said he would maintain the policy about not commenting on the activities of the SAS.

"I may at an appropriate time make a statement about is whereabouts, but I do not intend to that at this time," Mr Key said.

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