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Kiwi troops could leave Afghanistan before 2014 - Key

Published: 4:28PM Tuesday April 17, 2012 Source: ONE News

Prime Minister John Key says its "possible" New Zealand could leave Afghanistan before 2014.

The 140-member Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamyan province was due to stay there until 2014.

Key, who is in Jakarta on a trade mission, said at this point the Government is still committed to this date.

However, Key said: "It's possible we will be able to leave Bamiyan earlier."

"When you have a date like 2014 you wouldn't necessarily want everybody to leave on exactly the same day so it's quite a coordinated issue and our Defence Minister is working very closely with our partners to make sure there is a smooth transition as we leave Bamiyan."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced today that most Australian troops operating in Afghanistan will be withdrawn over the next 12-18 months, much earlier than expected.

Key said: "Australia's also working with ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] and NATO, it's not something where countries in that grouping are working unilaterally."

Last month, the New Zealand SAS wrapped up its mission to train the Afghan Crisis Response Unit in Kabul.

Despite losing two elite Kiwi soldiers, Douglas Grant and Leon Smith, the mission was touted as a success by commander of NATO's military forces Admiral James Stavridis and members of the Afghan force.

Earlier this month Stavridis said he does not see a need for New Zealand SAS soldiers to return to Afghanistan.