New Zealand's Chief of Defence Force says more troops could be sent to Afghanistan following the deaths of three Kiwi soldiers over the weekend.
Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, Private Richard Harris, 21, and Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31, died when their Humvee was hit by a bomb in Bamiyan Province at 9.20am (4.50pm NZT) on Sunday.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones he is discussing sending more troops to protect those already in Afghanistan with the Government.
"I am providing some advice to the Government about what we can do and some of that involves increases in certain areas," he told TVNZ's Close Up programme.
A revenge strike by the New Zealand Defence Force is also under discussion. And New Zealand's elite SAS troops are expected to play a role.
"One of the actions we may need to take is a strike...the IASF Special Forces will be the ones who would undertake that.
"We might be contributing some intelligence and planning support for that," Jones said.
Prime Minister John Key is offering up the SAS to assist with that.
"It might be that we provide a bit more logistic or planning support from our SAS people, but not a combat capability as we did in Kabul in recent times," Key said.
Dr Jim Veitch from the Department of Defence and Security Studies at Massey University said he thinks "the SAS unit should go up there straight away because the SAS is the best equipped unit".
NZ troops 'targeted'
Veitch told Close Up he believed the Taliban was targeting New Zealand soldiers.
"I think taking two soldiers out two weeks put the spotlight on New Zealanders so we've taken another hit."
He said New Zealand's role in Afghanistan had not gone unnoticed.
"It's been assessed what our contributions are and the Taliban is not foolish and they're out to score points against us."
Veitch said the deaths would have "tremendous propaganda advantages" for the Taliban.
"They will be rubbing their hands and laughing because they've taken out New Zealanders who thought all along they were the good chaps on the block and would be treated accordingly, but they're in a war zone."
Jones, on the other hand, said troops were not being targeted because they were from New Zealand, instead it was the result of the success and progress that had been made in Bamiyan.
Jones said the Taliban wants to show that there was no safe place in Afghanistan.
"There's a deliberate effort to target these tall poppies and say we're going to have a go and we're going to show them that the Taliban can stay around," Jones told Close Up.
Key to visit families
Key told TVNZ's Close Up programme he would visit the families of the fallen soldiers.
"Like any New Zealander I feel the enormous pain of losing our brave men and woman and its under my watch as Prime Minister and I have to take responsibility for that," he said.
Jones told Close Up he had spoken to all three families.
"Each of them, of course, is sad and it's a tragic time to be able talk to them, but they understand what their children were doing, they are quite proud of their kids, and their kids had all passed on that they were proud of what they were achieving over in Afghanistan," Jones said.
He said the deaths had also been felt within the Defence Force.
"We're a small military so these guys were known by us, they were liked by us, they were well respected, so to have these three, as well as the two a couple of weeks ago, die that is pretty tragic and it hits hard."
The trio were part of the same deployment as two soldiers killed two weeks ago in Afghanistan.
Lance Corporals Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone, both aged 26, were killed by insurgents in Bamiyan Province on August 4 after a fierce three-minute gun fight in a village near Do Abe.
Jones said the soldiers were transporting a fellow comrade to nearby Romeo base to visit a doctor when the bomb exploded.
"I'm advised it was a massive explosion that instantly killed everyone on board," said Jones.
Jones said Baker was the first woman to be lost in combat since the Vietnam War when a Kiwi nurse was killed.
Baker joined the NZ Army as a medic and was deployed to the Solomon Islands before Afghanistan. She has a partner in the Defence Force.
"We're not unique in having women on the front line. A lot of European countries have women on the front line because of the roles that we do with community engagement," said Jones.
"Having women there to be able to interact with children, with other women, in Islamic society becomes quite important."
The latest deaths bring the total number of Kiwi soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 10.
Key said the bomb attack occurred on a stretch of road often targeted by insurgents.
"We think that (the attack) was the result of these new bomb makers, part of the new insurgent group that are up there, which we have been targeting for some time," said Key.
"It's a dangerous piece of road but historically we have been successful in terms of the work that we have done there, so yes they are targeting that piece of road."
The road, near the Do Abe base, is regularly patrolled by New Zealand troops.
Do you think our troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan? Have your say on our messageboard below or on our Facebook page.