New Zealand Is Removing Its Troops From Afghanistan

New Zealand has decided that it will pull its last troops out of Afghanistan in May of 2021, which will mark the end of the deployment that spanned over 2 decades. 

Essentially, Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister, stated that the NZ army forces were no longer required in Afghanistan: “Afghanistan’s internal peace process represents the best prospect for an enduring political solution.”

NZ Defence Minister Peeni Henare said that there will always be ongoing concerns about Afghanistan, but we have done all we can and set them up in a position to begin peaceful agreements. They are hopeful for the peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. 

3,500 New Zealanders’ have served in Afghanistan since 2001, but it is now time to end this deployment. New Zealand began to deploy troops over as an international alliance in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This invasion was led by the United States and overturned the country’s Taliban rulers. Since the initial response, NZ has continued to deploy troops for over 20 years. 

New Zealand forces have helped rebuild and develop the country’s infrastructure which will ensure that their new future is started on stable beginnings. Though the deployment has not come without its controversy. In 2010, during a Special Air Service (SAS) led raid, called Operation Burnham, while there were no wrongful civilian deaths, it was very likely that a child was killed. This came to light in 2020 in the lengthy inquiry into allegations of civilian casualties during this raid. In 2020 alone the Afghan Independent Human Rights commission recorded 2958 civilian deaths. The inquiry gave NZ forces some very constructive criticism that is helping shape the development of the NZ forces’ future. 

Over the recent years, the number of NZ people being deployed in Afghanistan has significantly reduced to just 6 people, as of 2021: three in the NATO headquarters and also three in the Afghan training academy. The deployments to Afghanistan have been some of the longest deployments NZ has completed. 

This decision to remove the final 6 was not one done lightly but was discussed with many key partners and experts to ensure that the correct decision was made. Peeni Henare stated that the government has considered extensively the situation in Afghanistan, which includes the ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Henare told a local New Zealand news site that, in their decision-making process, they reviewed the Doha peace arrangement, which most of their allies are currently doing, and that it was largely agreed to end deployment to Afghanistan as soon as it is safe to do so. There are no plans to re-review the decision to remove its troops, as it is not a priority right now. 

There are still 10,000 troops from numerous countries in Afghanistan that are expected to meet to discuss their future in Afghanistan. In 2020, Washington and the Taliban agreed that the U.S. would remove all its troops by May 2021, in exchange for security guarantees. But as violence is continuing to steadily increase, this contract is being reviewed by the Biden Administration  

New Zealand’s defence minister stated, “I’m sure as we progress into the future and continue to look back on Afghanistan, people will draw their conclusions on our service there. But for myself, as the minister of defence, I’m proud of the defence personnels’ service.”

Isabella Patrick