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New Zealand Special Forces Return to Afghanistan

By Phil Mercer
22 September 2009

New Zealand has sent its elite SAS combat force to rejoin the war in Afghanistan. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will discuss the war and his country's deployment when he meets United Nations and NATO leaders in New York this week.

The deployment of elite New Zealand troops to Afghanistan is in response to repeated requests from the United States.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key defends his decision to send about 70 soldiers to what he describes as a "historical hotbed of terrorism." He is the United States this week to attend the United Nations General Assembly and will meet with leaders of other nations involved in the war in Afghanistan.

It is New Zealand's the fourth detachment of SAS troopers to be sent to Afghanistan since 2001, but the first since 2005.

Mr. Key says it is vital that the international coalition defeats the insurgency.

"The aim here is to try and stabilize Afghanistan and I think the alternative is that we are left with a country where control is ceded to the Taliban, where in all probability more terrorist activities will be planned and schemes will be hatched and I do not believe that is in the world's best interests," he said.

New Zealand also has a 140-strong army reconstruction unit in Afghanistan.

The deployment of New Zealand Special Forces comes as concerns grow over the number of casualties of both foreign soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan. In addition, many Western governments are worried about political uncertainty in the country over allegations of vote rigging in the recent presidential election.

General Stanley McChrystal, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has warned that the war against the Taliban could be lost if foreign troop levels are not boosted significantly.

Australia, a key U.S. ally, has said it has not been asked to send more forces to Afghanistan. It has about 1,550 soldiers there now - the largest contribution of any country outside NATO.

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