Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

PM: Bamiyan vehicles best available to NZ

Members of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team carry the caskets of their three fallen comrades across Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  Photo / NZDF
Members of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team carry the caskets of their three fallen comrades across Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Photo / NZDF

Prime Minister John Key defended the type of vehicles the New Zealand Defence Force is using in Afghanistan, not as the best but as the "best available".

He also said the Government had never declined any request by the Defence Force for equipment in Afghanistan.

Mr Key gave more details about an earlier approach to the United States by New Zealand to sound out the potential for more highly protected vehicles.

He said that after the death of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell in 2010 the NZ Defence Force undertook an equipment review, exploring the possibility of getting mine-resistant armour protected (MRAP) vehicles, but they were "unavailable."

Mr Key said he was a political, not a technical expert. "I can simply take advice from the experts."

The three soldiers killed instantly by a road bomb on Sunday were riding in a Humvee borrowed from the United States, which no longer uses the vehicles in combat.

However Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones says that no one would have survived the blast in an MRAP.

The bodies of the three dead soldiers, Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris, are due to arrive in Christchurch this afternoon on an RNZAF C-130 Hercules.

A service for them is expected to be held at Burnham on Saturday.

They were carried from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan by an Australian Defence Force A-340 after a ramp ceremony attended by the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General John R. Allen, and the visiting US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, several hours after the base had been attacked by insurgents' missiles.

Mr Key refused to be drawn on another statement by the Hungary Ministry of Defence which has issued a second statement to again deny claims its provincial reconstruction team isn't pulling its weight.

The statement also expresses condolences over the deaths of New Zealanders in Afghanistan on Sunday.

But it has again denied claims that it does not patrol at night in Baghlan province or in areas near the border of Bamiyan where New Zealand is based and where insurgents are thought to be increasing. After the deaths of two New Zealand soldiers earlier this month, Prime Minister John Key suggested that insurgent problems were growing in the border between the provinces because the Hungarians refused to patrol at night.

- NZ Herald

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