Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Karzai grateful for NZ for contribution

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has expressed his gratitude to the 10 New Zealand soldiers who have died in Afghanistan.

New Zealand's Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman were among a group of dignitaries who met Mr Karzai in Kabul overnight.

Sir Jerry said Mr Karzai spoke at length of New Zealand's contribution and was eager to reinforce that the Afghan people knew what New Zealand's troops had done over the past decade.

"He was absolutely grateful for the commitment that New Zealand had made and very much because we had no other ulterior motive other than to come here to help Afghanistan and the Afghan people, Sir Jerry said following the meeting.

"He fully understood the sacrifice that has been made."

Dr Coleman also met International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander General Joseph Dunford and Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan.

"One of the points General Dunford made was that it was very important to maintain the confidence of the Afghan people as we get to the end of the current ISAF mission in 2014," Dr Coleman said.

Mr Khan had painted a "rosy" picture of how security was operating in Afghanistan's provinces, but there was concern that Pakistan was not doing enough to promote security in the region.

"He said the important things are really going to be tackling corruption, making sure they have a sustainable and strong ANSF [Afghan National Security Force], and ultimately Pakistan has to come to the party in terms of eliminating safe havens for terrorists."

Dr Coleman said Bamiyan had come a long way since New Zealand had been in the province.

"When we look at the gains here in health, in education, in infrastructure, in agriculture, in the betterment of the living status of women and children, New Zealand is leaving behind a massive legacy here which people back home should be very proud of.

"I think our 10 years here has made a very real difference in this part of the world and it's something that we should look back on. It is a tragedy that we lost people, there's no doubt about that, but it's time to look back and commemorate."

- APNZ

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