Super Army Soldiers

January 2011

Whether New Zealand's SAS troops in Afghanistan fired first or only in retaliation1 in their latest confrontation, the fact remains that we are involved in a protracted (and contentious) war in a country we have otherwise very little involvement with, and in a capacity kept largely concealed from us.

New Zealand troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001, serving in both combat and reconstruction capacities under the umbrellas of NATO and the UN. Curiously, the NZDF's own website makes little mention of combat deployments, choosing to focus only on reconstruction, logistical support, training, and diplomacy. Occasional reports emerge of an active and aggressive combat element to the duties of New Zealand's Afghanistan troops, but on the whole their presence and actions go under-reported.

In fact, both recent news appearances of our SAS (the photos of Corporal Willie Apiata post-firefight, and the recent botched factory raid) have been non-sanctioned, and have left Defence Force officials scrambling to cover themselves. Were it not for these ‘leaks’ – both coming from foreign sources – we may never have known of the SAS's actions in Afghanistan, given the secrecy policy in effect.

The war in Afghanistan has typically been far more accepted than the occupation in Iraq (given the genuine connection to Al-Qaida), but it is worth recalling that it is in Afghanistan that US contractors are sponsoring child prostitution parties and spending US war funds as protection money which goes straight into Taliban pockets, while military leaders are duped by Taliban impostors.

The ever-growing absurdity of this war, the increasing incursions into neighbouring Pakistan, and the fact that this war is now nine years old (having lasted longer than all major conflicts of the 20th century but the Vietnam war) all strongly suggest that we would be best out of it – or truly restricting ourselves to non-combat roles, as the Defence Forces are so keen to advertise. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem we get much say in what our soldiers get up to.

  1. Update, 14th Jan 2011: A NATO/ISAF investigation has ‘cleared the New Zealand soldiers of any wrong-doing,’ according to the chief of the NZ Defence Force, Lt. Gen. Jerry Mateparae. He says:

[Video imagery] clearly shows the New Zealanders came under fire from an Afghan 'security guard' and that the New Zealanders only returned fire in self defence because they were at risk of death or serious injury.