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    27 NZ troops to stay after PRT pullout in April

    KABUL (PAN): The New Zealand cabinet government on Monday pledged contribution to Afghanistan beyond the pullout of its Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from central Bamyan province in April.

    Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman told a cabinet meeting in Wellington that 27 defence personnel would remain for another in Afghanistan, where 200 troops from New Zealand are currently stationed, a media report said.

    According to Fuseworks Media, Foreign Minister Murray McCully called the troops staying in the war-torn country a "small but proportionate military commitment to the international mission in Afghanistan". Most of them will be based in Kabul.

    He said: "As previously indicated, the government believes it remains in New Zealand's interests to continue to play our part to secure the gains that have been achieved in Afghanistan over the last decade."

    Eight of the personnel will be deployed to the UK-led Afghan National Army Officer Training Academy in Kabul later this year. The deployment is expected to extend beyond 2014

    With a dozen troops assigned to the ISAF Special Operations Forces headquarters and three to the headquarters of the NATO-led force in Kabul, another three will be part of the New Zealand National Support Element. One officer with the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan

    New Zealand has promised to contribute $2 million a year from 2015 to help sustain the Afghan forces after the conclusion of the ISAF mission.

    While continuing to provide development assistance to Bamyan after the PRT withdrawal, New Zealand may close its embassy in Kabul before the end of 2014, according to the report.

    PAN Monitor/mud