New Zealand forces in Afghanistan praised
Announcing the withdrawal, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the move was not prompted by the deaths this month of their five soldiers.
New Zealand troops have been stationed in central Bamyan province, where August’s deaths account for half of all fatalities suffered by the small contingent of New Zealanders in the nine years.
Key said that the remaining soldiers from the contingent of 145 would be withdrawn in early 2013. He said discussions for the earlier withdrawal began before the five deaths this month, including three who were killed Sunday by a roadside bomb.
The Pentagon refrained from commenting on the early exit announcement by Key, but said it deeply regretted the loss three New Zealand troops who were killed by IED.
The Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters the New Zealanders had been very strong partners in their efforts in Afghanistan. “We applaud what they have done. We honor the sacrifice that the country and their troops have made,” he said.
Key said the country’s contingent of 145 troops would be withdrawn early 2013 rather than late 2013 as planned earlier.
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