The decision by the National Government to embark on a new deployment of New Zealand Defence Force personnel to Afghanistan is wrong and unprincipled.
Last year the Prime Minister, John Key, said New Zealand troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of April 2013.
This u-turn is not the result of New Zealand’s judgement and the values our foreign policy should be based on but rather the pressure that the government came under from another country.
National has reneged on its responsibility to make its own decisions as an independent and sovereign nation.
The consequence is that New Zealanders’ lives will continue to be put at risk without the hope of a positive outcome to the conflict there and on behalf of a government in Afghanistan that does not merit the sacrifice of Kiwi lives.
The Prime Minister’s justification that they won’t be at much risk because they are “inside the wire” doesn’t have much credibility.
Time and again allied soldiers in Afghanistan have been shot in the back by soldiers in Afghan National Army uniform who have no real loyalty to their own government.
There is no good reason why Kiwi lives should be put at risk to preserve the Afghanistan Government. Wikileaks revealed that the Afghan Vice-President was found leaving the country with a bag packed with millions of US dollars. Drug traffickers, with the concurrence of the Afghan government, supply 90 per cent of illicit opium trafficked to Europe. Corruption is pervasive, human rights are constantly abused.
The Karzai administration after a decade has failed to win the support of its own people.
In 2001, New Zealand rightly deployed its troops to Afghanistan to suppress a terrorist organisation, Al Qaeda, based in Afghanistan which had launched international terrorist attacks against innocent people culminating in 9/11.
It did so consistent with a United Nations resolution which had overwhelming international support.
Today, Al Qaeda is a force in Pakistan rather than in Afghanistan.
The war in Afghanistan has assumed more the nature of a civil war between two opposing sides, neither of which have values consistent with ours.
No matter how long we stay there or how many further lives we sacrifice, we will not determine the final outcome of that war.
New Zealanders understand sacrifice. In two world wars we have suffered more than our fair share of Kiwi lives lost. Like other New Zealanders, my family has lost members in both those wars and in Afghanistan as well. As a country we don’t shy away from involvement in wars on the basis only that lives may be lost.
But we should not be involved in conflicts where the loss of lives cannot be justified and where the cause is known to be futile.
Pleasing another country is not cause enough to put Kiwi lives at risk. After 12 years it is past time that New Zealand brings all its troops home from Afghanistan, rather than embarking on a new deployment.