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Slain soldiers families question Afghan pull out

Published: 3:28PM Monday September 03, 2012 Source: ONE News

The mother of Lance Corporal Luke Tamatea, who died in Afghanistan two weeks ago, has said New Zealand soldiers should not pull out of the war-torn country unless the job is done.

Her comments came as the Government announced today that New Zealand troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of April next year.

Tamatea's mother, Lynne, spoke to ONE News for the first time about the loss of her 31-year-old son in Bamiyan province a fortnight ago.

He was one of three New Zealand soldiers killed by a roadside bomb.

She said she is worried about New Zealand's legacy given today's confirmation of the final withdrawal of our soldiers.

"If it's not done, it's not worth coming home," she said.

"I know that Luke would be devastated if he thought that his death was part of what instigated the coming home early."

Public support for military action in Afghanistan suffered a blow last month when five soldiers died within two weeks of each other, including Tamatea.

The deaths prompted calls for the army to pull out early.

Private Pralli Durrer's family are also concerned about the announcement made by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman that the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) will pull out of Afghanistan by the end of April next year, after a 10 year deployment.

The 26-year-old was killed in a firefight after his patrol went to the aid of Afghan police on August 5.

"I'm a bit worried for the people there (in Afghanistan)," said his grandfather, Jack Durrer.

"When the New Zealanders leave there it might be a bloodbath."

The Afghan community in New Zealand also share some of these concerns.

"I think it will affect them badly," said Zakaria Hazaranejead, from the All Hazara Afghan Association of New Zealand.

"The terrorists will have more access to the region."

However, Prime Minister John Key said the job is now done and the New Zealand contingent has "absolutely" made a difference in Bamiyan.

"But it's still a challenging country," said Key.

The Prime Minister said a small group of NZ soldiers will stay in Kabul beyond April 2013 to help train Afghan forces.

The 21st and final rotation of NZ soldiers is expected to leave for Bamiyan province in October.

Greens unhappy, Labour pleased

The Green Party today slammed the Government, saying it should be seeking ways to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible "rather than concentrating on an arbitrary date".

"We owe it to those currently serving in Afghanistan to look at all the ways we can get them home safely and as soon as possible," said defence spokesman Kennedy Graham.
"Sadly, the role of those serving in the Provincial Reconstruction Team now appears to be focused more and more on patrolling a dangerous part of Bamiyan province, where our troops are being drawn into counter insurgency operations."

However, Labour leader David Shearer said he was "pleased" with the Prime Minister's decision on Afghanistan.

"We have been calling for our soldiers to come home as soon as practicable," he said.

"Our soldiers have achieved remarkable results during the 10 years that we have been on the ground in Afghanistan.

"Staying there any longer would not have made a significant difference to all we have achieved. There is a time to leave and this is it."