The remaining New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel in Afghanistan have returned home, having lowered the flag on the NZDF’s 20-year deployment to the country. The Government announced recently that it was time to conclude the deployment. More than 3500 NZDF personnel have served in Afghanistan, in what has been one of the NZDF’s longest-running deployments. Ten New Zealanders lost their lives while serving there. Resolute Support is a non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and comprises around 9500 personnel from 36 NATO allies and partners.
Colonel Ben Bagley, the Senior National Officer for the final contingent, said its six personnel had made a significant contribution. While small in number, we had sizeable tasks ahead of us when we first arrived in Afghanistan last year. When we lowered the New Zealand flag, we were all quite proud to be the last Kiwis to represent our country in Afghanistan.” Colonel Bagley was based at the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission headquarters in Kabul.
Three NZDF personnel were supporting the United Kingdom-led mentoring for the Afghan National Army Officers’ Academy (ANAOA). Over time, the NZDF’s role at the ANAOA changed from training cadets to one of mentoring Afghan trainers. The academy has now reached a point of self-sufficiency where New Zealand’s contribution is no longer needed. The two NZDF gender advisors at the Resolute Support Mission headquarters were leading projects such as the construction of a Women’s Police training village that could accommodate families, and the creation of a career progression model for all females in the ANDSF.
During the deployment, there was another handover of significance to the NZDF. A New Zealand camp, located within Harmid Karzai International Airport and named after Corporal Douglas Grant, who was killed in Afghanistan, was handed over to the United Kingdom defence forces to use. Five of the six New Zealand Defence Force personnel have completed 14 days managed isolation in New Zealand. The sixth person is based overseas with family.