John Key
John Key Greg Bowker

NZ to pull SAS from Afghanistan

NEW ZEALAND Prime Minister John Key has confirmed their SAS troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan in March.

Mr Key made the announcement this morning, saying the Special Air Services troops had done the job they were sent over for.

"You made a difference. It's time to come home."

Mr Key had earlier said he did not expect to extend their 30 month deployment past March, but had left a slight chance open for it to be extended, saying that the SAS itself had wanted to stay on.

He said he did not regret deploying the troops again.

Labour had opposed the deployment, saying the SAS was effectively assisting a "corrupt" regime in Afghanistan.

Me Key said the SAS had done its job helping Kabul's Crisis Response Unit (CRU) "to the very highest of standards," says Mr Key.

"Tragically, they have also paid the highest price, with two of the SAS's fine soldiers losing their lives in the course of this work and I would, once again, like to pay tribute to Corporal Doug Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith who were killed in action.

"I deeply regret the loss of our soldiers but I do not regret our commitment to operations in Afghanistan."

He said the CRU was now considered one of the best trained and most professional units in Afghanistan.

The SAS role alongside the CRU was described as "mentoring" but the troops often got involved in combatting insurgents' actions themselves.

Mr Key said the Provincial Reconstruction Team would continue its work in Bamyan province.

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