Peace-keeping or Combat? It’s our choice.

24 Oct

The New Zealand Defence Force holds a good international reputation as a well-respected peace-keeping force. We are currently involved in Peace Support Operations in thirteen countries. The most volatile of these are Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands.

Earlier this month, the latest defence report announced that the Defence Force is priming towards a more combative role for defence forces overseas. The NZ Herald reported that ‘The Capability Plan states that the Army will be “reshaped around a combined arms task group to increase the combat utility, sustainability and potential scale of deployments.”’

The recent tragic deaths of Corporal Doug Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith brought to the attention of the New Zealand public that we had been left in the dark about the true nature of the role that the New Zealand Defence Force Troops were playing in Afghanistan. In another report by the New Zealand Herald, it was reported that ‘Mr Locke said the raid showed the SAS were going beyond their mission of providing mentoring for the Afghan Crisis Response Unit. “It is damaging for New Zealand’s reputation if our troops are involved in operations where innocent Afghan civilians are killed.”’

The culmination of these two pieces of information (that we are already engaged in a combatant role and the Defence Force is moving towards further training in this direction) spurred me into thinking that perhaps now is the time that we as New Zealanders need to consider our identity when it comes to armed forces overseas. I question whether at a time of huge cost cutting within the state sector and in the face of two lost soldiers whether we should be putting more resources and money into building a Defence Force that can take part in more combatant roles overseas.

Hannah Mackintosh

For reports see:

Radio NZ

NZ Herald

Waikato Times

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