New Zealand ponders upping Afghan troops

Jan. 31, 2006 at 2:45 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- As Afghanistan's stability continues to deteriorate, New Zealand's government is sidestepping reports in the British media that it will send more troops there.

The issue is roiling national politics, with National Party spokesman for foreign affairs Murray McCully asking the government to explain reports that quote British Defense Secretary John Reid as saying New Zealand would increase its troop deployment.

The PakTribune reported McCully as castigating ministers' conflicting statements about further Afghan deployment, insisting that it should be direct if it wanted inter-party support.

McCully said, "The National Party is anxious to ensure that New Zealand servicemen and women who are deployed overseas know that they are going with the non-partisan support of the New Zealand Parliament. In the spirit of ensuring non-partisan support of the deployment. I hope the Government will offer a briefing to National on the deployment if the decision has been made."

Besides Special Air Services Forces, New Zealand's largest commitment has been the troops sent to Afghanistan as a provincial reconstruction team. New Zealand has 94 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel in Bamyan until June 2006.

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