Kiwi troops could be out of Afghanistan next year

New Zealand SAS handing over to Norwegian troops in Afghanistan. Photo / supplied
New Zealand SAS handing over to Norwegian troops in Afghanistan. Photo / supplied

Prime Minister John Key says Kiwi troops could be out of Afghanistan as early as next year.

After Australia confirmed it would withdraw its own troops over the next 12-18 months, Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully said last week that the Government was looking at withdrawing its 140-member Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamyan province early.

Today Mr Key said the Government was working with its international partners about when exactly the withdrawal would happen but said it would be no later than 2014.

"The early indications are it may be a little earlier than that, obviously we want to make sure we leave the place in great shape," Mr Key said.

It was possible it could happen as early as next year, he said.

"You wouldn't want to make that decision today, it's certainly not a decision we're making in isolation."

The Government would possibly make a decision about the exact date in the next month, but "it's not a decision we make solely in isolation, it's on advice from our partners", Mr Key said.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman today also said there was now an opportunity for an accelerated withdrawal timetable.

He said the PRT team was just about ready to hand over security to the local authorities in the Bamyan province.

Last month the New Zealand SAS concluded its mission to train the Afghan Crisis Response Unit in Kabul.

- APNZ

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