US military's number two pops in on a 'close friend'

By Audrey Young

The United States' second highest ranking military officer, General James Cartwright, is visiting New Zealand.

General Cartwright, a four-star general, is vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the second four-star general to visit New Zealand this month.

It will be the seventh visit by a four-star general since the beginning of 2009 and at least the second visit by a vice- chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Joseph Ralston visited in 1999.

General Cartwright will meet Defence Minister Wayne Mapp.

"Visits by four star officers are an ongoing occurrence," Dr Mapp said last night.

"It is just part of a pattern of senior visits that have been occurring for many years. I see it as part-and-parcel of an ongoing dialogue between close friends."

Dr Mapp said they would discuss Afghanistan, where New Zealand has the Special Air Service deployed, and a provincial reconstruction team, which is to be phased out in favour of civilian assistance.

The number of troops in the PRT, based in Bamiyan, has begun to be drawn down, said Dr Mapp.

"That process is in train. We are already starting to reduce the military presence, in a very staged way."

Bamiyan was the obvious place to have the first transfer "because it is probably the most secure place in Afghanistan", he said.

Asked if joint military exercises between New Zealand and the US would be discussed with General Cartwright, Dr Mapp said he doubted they would get to that level of specificity.

General Cartwright will meet the Vice-Chief of Defence Force, Rear Admiral Jack Steer and possibly with the Chief of Defence Force, General Jerry Mateparae, who has returned for the funeral tomorrow of the three Air Force crew killed in a helicopter crash on Anzac Day.

US Admiral James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, visited New Zealand two weeks ago.

Visits by other four-star officers since the beginning of 2009 have included Admiral Timothy Keating and Admiral Robert Willard, both of the US Pacific Command; Admiral Thad Allen of the US Coast Guard; and General Gary North, Pacific Air Forces Commander.

- NZ Herald

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