'New Zealand Special Forces to Leave Afghanistan in March'

Wellington, Dec 22 (IANS): New Zealand's special forces will leave Afghanistan in March next year, Prime Minister John Key confirmed Thursday.

"The SAS has achieved the job they were sent to do with Kabul's Crisis Response Unit, and they have done that job to the very highest of standards," Xinhua quoted the New Zealand prime minister as saying in a statement.

"...I deeply regret the loss of our soldiers, but I do not regret our commitment to operations in Afghanistan," said Key.

The New Zealand Special Air Service Group (SAS), which is mentoring the Kabul Crisis Response Unit (CRU), an elite unit of the Afghan national police, was scheduled to be withdrawn in March.

There had been speculation, however, that its stay in Afghanistan could be extended.

New Zealand would remain committed to Afghanistan's Bamyan province, where it has had a peacekeeping unit, the Provincial Reconstruction Team, since 2003.

The Provincial Reconstruction Unit, which is scheduled to pull out in 2014, would complete its important work in building security, governance and development capacity in the province, said Key.

The SAS was first deployed in Afghanistan in 2001, but had been pulled out in 2005 after three deployments.


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