The Herald editorial:
More fundamentally, most New Zealanders recognise their country must play a role in the escalating war against the Taleban. If the conflict is lost, Afghanistan will again become a bolt-hole for terrorism.
It is not just about Afghanistan.
There are good reasons for heightened New Zealand involvement at an early stage. This is looming as a defining time in the struggle. The Americans, with Iraq now much less of a distraction, have poured 20,000 more troops into the country, sparking major new offensives against the Taleban in the south and east. Most encouragingly, the Obama Administration has insisted on a new strategy, which places less emphasis on tracking and killing Taleban fighters and more on protecting Afghans from the insurgents.
The change in strategy seems very wise.
The Americans had some success with this strategy in Iraq, but Afghanistan is far more complex, if only because the Taleban, largely composed of members of the Pashtun tribes, is so well integrated. Even striking deals with more-moderate Taleban leaders will prove far from easy, given the international coalition’s emphasis on human rights and gender equality.
And the Pashtun are very nationalistic, only really uniting against foreigners.
Nonetheless, this is not a struggle that New Zealand can shirk. Sending the SAS has nothing to with currying favour with the White House. It is about the way Afghanistan provided a training ground for worldwide terrorism. Last week’s bombing in Jakarta reinforced the fact that every effort must be made to prevent that happening again.
Also, this is exactly the sort of combat the SAS has trained for. And from all accounts are very proficient at.