22 February, 2013
Statement: NATO-ISAF Defence Ministers' Meeting
Mr Secretary General, Colleagues
This morning I am pleased to be able to confirm New Zealand’s continuing support for Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force.
New Zealand has stood side-by-side with our ISAF partners in Afghanistan since December 2001. We have deployed New Zealand Defence Force personnel in a range of roles in support of the ISAF mission to first stabilise and then build up the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces.
Bamyan Province, where New Zealand has led the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) since 2003, was the first province to formally begin transition, in mid-2011. With the lives of the people of Bamyan having improved dramatically, and with Afghan police forces now responsible for security across the province, the New Zealand PRT will soon depart Bamyan after ten years of continuous service. In Bamyan as with the rest of Afghanistan, only the Afghan people can lead it into the future.
Progress has come at the cost of 5 New Zealand lives in the past year and a total of 10 across the country over the past decade. The sacrifices of the dead and wounded right across ISAF and the Afghan forces must not be in vain.
Bamyan has not been immune from its share of challenges. Access to major markets in Kabul and building Bamyan’s tourism industry have been challenging because of criminal networks and insurgent operations targeting travellers along the Bamyan-Parwan Highway.
New Zealand has built links with Bamyan’s neighbouring provinces and worked hard to build the capacity of Bamyan’s police force, including the training of a Police Quick Reaction Force, to ensure that the improvements made in security during the PRT’s involvement in Bamyan do not slip away when we depart.
New Zealand salutes the oustanding leadership efforts of Bamyan Provincial Governor, Dr Sarabi. Her example should be the standard for Afghan governance and leadership.
However sustaining success will require more than just the continued good work of the Bamyan police and provincial government. It requires further improvements in the governance and security of Afghanistan more widely.
New Zealand recognises that Afghanistan continues to require a strong partnership with the international community through the work of ISAF, international development agencies, NGOs, and the United Nations. We are committed to supporting that work.
Four days ago New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced that we will be contributing trainers and support personnel to the Afghan National Army Officers’ Academy from later this year, as well as intelligence and planning personnel to staff positions in Kabul.
We will also play our part in funding Afghanistan’s National Security Forces, as well as provide on going development support in line with the commitments made at the 2012 Tokyo Development Conference.
New Zealand welcomes - and continues to encourage – the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to redouble its efforts to improve the rule of law, reduce corruption and ensure that the treatment of detainees under its control are afforded all the rights due to them under Afghan and international law.
In this regard, I acknowledge the response of the Afghan Government to the recent UNAMA detainees report. This remains an important issue for New Zealand and the international community.
New Zealand recognises that Afghanistan continues to require a strong partnership with the international community through the work of ISAF, international development agencies, NGOs, and the United Nations.
We welcome the work that has been done by NATO to develop plans for a suitably resourced, follow-on mission from ISAF after 2014 – Operation Resolute Support – which supports the ever-increasing capacity of Afghan Forces to provide for the security of their own country.
New Zealand remains committed to playing its part, working with the Afghan Government and our ISAF partners, to ensure that Afghanistan becomes a more prosperous nation and is never again used as a haven for international terrorism.
We thank General Allen for his efforts as Commander of ISAF, and extend our congratulations and support to General Dunford as he assumes the ISAF leadership.