Reduced New Zealand SAS to stay on in Afghanistan

18:47, February 01, 2011      

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The New Zealand government was keeping New Zealand's elite Special Air Force (SAS) troops in Afghanistan, but will reduce numbers by about half when the 12- month extension takes effect in April.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key left open the possibility of the extension after a secret visit to Afghanistan last year. The troops were originally due to withdraw in March.

About 70 Special Air Service soldiers are now stationed in Kabul, but that number will be cut to about 35.

Key told a press conference on Tuesday that the troops asked to stay for another year. He said the SAS believe they have almost completed their work with the Afghan Crisis Response Unit, but want a bit longer.

The New Zealand government said the reduced number will still enable the troops to carry out their role of providing monitoring and guidance, and there was no international pressure to keep the SAS in Afghanistan.

A decision on the future of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan province will be made in a few months, he said.

Source: Xinhua
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