John Key rejects inquiry into SAS in Afghanistan

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / File
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / File

Prime Minister John Key has dismissed holding an inquiry into the SAS's role in Afghanistan following the troops' return home.

The New Zealand special air service (SAS) soldiers completed their Afghanistan mission on Saturday, handing over control to Norwegian soldiers, and the Government has said it has no plans to redeploy them.

The fourth deployment of SAS troops to Afghanistan, posted in 2009, has not been without controversy, with opposition parties criticising support for the Afghanistan government.

Two SAS soldiers, Corporal Douglas Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith, were killed in separate incidents last year, and questions were raised last year about New Zealand's involvement in prisoners being handed over to other forces despite concerns about torture.

Mr Key today once again rejected the torture claims and that further investigation was needed.

"I don't think we need to have an inquiry," Mr Key told TVNZ's Breakfast.

"New Zealand has acted fully and professionally, and in line with the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and Nato [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] requirements. I think there was one incident where a person was detained, and they went through the proper process."

During their deployment, SAS troops conducted operations against insurgent networks, predominantly improvised explosive device and suicide bomber networks, and provided counter-terrorism help to the Afghan police's crisis response unit.

Mr Key said he did not know whether Afghanistan was now safer than before the New Zealand troops arrived but the mission had still been successful.

"Kabul is quite a dangerous place, as we know, and the Taleban have been undertaking much more high profile attacks there," Mr Key said.

"But there's no question that the Crisis Response Unit, two and a half years on, is a much stronger unit than it was before we got there."

- APNZ

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