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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Taliban's pledge to kill Kiwis 'propaganda' - Minister

Published: 2:38PM Sunday August 26, 2012 Source: ONE News

Taliban fighters in Pakistan - Source: Reuters

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Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says a statement by the Taliban that they will find and kill New Zealand soldiers is propaganda.

Following the deaths of five New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan's Bamiyan province this month, a Taliban spokesman reportedly told a Herald on Sunday correspondent, "We will find them and kill them. There's no safety for them."

Coleman told TVNZ's Q+A this morning there was an insurgency and it had become more dangerous in the north-east of Bamiyan province over time.

"But at the same time, the second point is, there is a war of words and propaganda. And naturally the Taliban would want to unsettle the public and the Government of New Zealand with statements like this," Coleman said.

"So we know that it has become more dangerous in that part of the [Bamiyan] province. But, look, this is what's happening across Afghanistan every day. This is just a usual day in Afghanistan."

Coleman said the Government is determined to "stick to the course" in Afghanistan "because we just can't cut and run and lose the gains that New Zealand's made there over a decade".

He said: "So while it's very sad, it's very tragic, and of course it's a very disturbing series of events, it doesn't deflect us from our path in Bamiyan. That remains unchanged."

New Zealand troops 'not specifically' targeted.

However, Otago University lecturer Dr Najibullah Lafraie, who a minister in the Afghan government before the Taliban took over in 1996, believed Kiwi troops were not being directly targeted.

But Lafraie told Q+A that does not mean there would not be more Kiwi casualties in Afghanistan.

"It seems the Taliban have found a way to penetrate into Bamiyan. So that there's more danger and more risk to the lives of Kiwi Soldiers," he said.

"I don't think that it's specifically about Bamiyan or specifically against New Zealand troops. They see all the foreign troops as invaders and take action wherever and whenever they can."

Lafraie said people had misconceptions about the Taliban and they would be watching the reaction of the New Zealand Government following the deaths of Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, Private Richard Harris and Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer and Rory Malone.

"We think that the Taliban are just a bunch of traditional, uneducated youth and they don't know anything about what's going on in the world. But that is not the case," Lafraie said.

"The sophistication is there and they are following the news. And certainly they take note of what's going on and what the politicians say."

New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team has been in Bamiyan since 2003.

Lafraie said while the work they had done in the region had helped locals, they would not come home with a legacy of helping Afghanistan.

"Unfortunately, that is the case, because Bamiyan, being an isolated place and the level of activity going on there, the impact on the overall situation is almost negligible," he said.

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