Afghanistan and the RNZN

Find out about the extensive role New Zealand has played in Afghanistan. New Zealand’s first involvement in Afghanistan was in 1989 when she agreed to provide a five man team to serve the United Nations Mine Clearance Training Team (UNMCTT).

 

New Zealand’s first involvement in Afghanistan was in 1989 when she agreed to provide a five man team to serve the United Nations Mine Clearance Training Team (UNMCTT). New Zealand UNMCTT was based in Pakistan and ran courses for Afghans on mine recognition. In early1991, the New Zealand members of the training team were given permission to enter Afghanistan and gave training to Afghan refugees. At the end of 1991 the team was withdrawn to concentrate its efforts in Cambodia.

The HMNZS Te Kaha was deployed to the Middle East in December 2002 to February 2003 with HMNZS Te Mana taking over to June 2003 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. This force monitored shipping activity in the Gulf of Oman and the Straits of Hormuz. Its responsibility related to querying and boarding suspicious vessels to deter and prevent Al Qaeda and Taliban use of sea transport.

From April 2004 to August 2004 the frigate HMNZS Te Mana was deployed to the Gulf region as far west as the Horn of Africa. This was as part of international naval Task Group conducting operations against the Taleban and Al Qaeda and monitored shipping activity in those areas. It had a responsibility to gather intelligence, intercept and board ships, and, if necessary, identify and detain Al Qaeda and Taleban personnel.

In 2005 it was decided that New Zealand would extend its military presence in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province by a year to September 2006. There were 130 NZDF personnel deployed in Afghanistan. This deployment cost $34 million and was largely made up team of 120 personnel in Bamyan province.

Bamian university reopened in April 2004 after a year of reconstruction and $1 million in aid donated by the US and New Zealand. The University was once the pinnacle of higher learning in the Bamian province but when the province fell to the Taleban in 1998, the terrorists closed the university and used it as a headquarters. The university received significant damage during the 2001 US bombing campaigns against the Taleban. After the Taleban were defeated it was decided to rebuild the University and a provincial reconstruction team (PRT). Lieutenant Commander Woodhead who deployed to Afghanistan in 2003-2004 was directly involved in the project: “I did the technical oversight and helped to push the project along, and then we equipped it with New Zealand AID money. We then provided money for salaries and a whole lot of other things to try and get the place started”. The university anticipated teaching 1000 students in its first year and doubling that number by the end of its second year.

LT Dave Grinlinton is Staff Officer (Finance) or ‘S9’ in the NZPRT in Bamian.

He reports:

After 20+ years of law practice and teaching the last place I expected to find myself in was the middle of Afghanistan in the middle of winter. However, with a parallel career as a Naval Reservist, when the opportunity came up to transfer to the RNZN for a 6 month deployment to Afghanistan, I grabbed it!  My civilian employer, the University of Auckland, kindly agreed to ‘leave without pay’, and my two daughters – ‘leave with presents’ at the end!

On arrival I certainly noticed the thinner oxygen at 9,000 ft – I paid the price for over exertion on PT Hill with a splitting headache and nausea caused by mild dehydration and O2 deficit.

Far from being a quiet number-crunching admin job, my job turns out to be a challenging and interesting posting. In the absence of any reliable banking system in the Bamyan Region, my primary job is the “Banker” and financial adviser for the NZPRT. This involves administering a substantial budget, forward financial forecasting to ensure we always have sufficient funds at Bamyan, making NZAID payments, and supporting the patrols. It is a cash economy here as there are simply no banking facilities or electronic systems such as EFTPOS, or on-line banking once out of Kabul or the main cities. Day-to-day financial matters “down the hill” at the NSE at Bagram are handled by the very competent CPOWTR Lynette Bokany (NSE Finance Clerk).

Naval officer Lieutenant Julie Fitzell deployed to Afghanistan as the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team logistics liaison officer to the US Brigade headquarters. As a logistics officer, her role to the US Brigade headquarters. As a logistics officer, her role was to address logistics issues on behalf of the New Zealand PRT.  She dealt directly with supporting agencies in Bagram and civilian contractors in Kabul. She was awarded a Chief of Defence Force commendation for her work in Afghanistan.

In 2005 it was decided that New Zealand would extend its military presence in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province by a year to September 2006. There were 130 NZDF personnel deployed in Afghanistan. This deployment cost $34 million and was largely made up of 120 provincial construction team of 120 personnel in Bamyan province

Home from Afghanistan! CDR Peter Waa returned to NZ at the end of November, after working as the Chief of Staff of the Military Advisor Unit within the UN Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA)

UNAMA aims to coordinate a number of reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan. It is also mandated to promote good governance and eradicate human rights abuses in the country. The Military Advisor Unit involves personnel from a variety of countries who serve in various roles. Eight are attached to each of the UNAMA regional offices while others serve in the mission’s district office and headquarters element.

The biggest challenge they face is working around the conflict taking place in the East, South-East and South of the country, Commander Waa says. Trying to overcome the “extreme levels” of poverty and illiteracy is also difficult. “All of these issues impact opportunities for national and international agencies to bring development to the country.”

CDR Waa’s duties included liaison between the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Afghan security forces and the United Nations. “It can be a very hectic regime but it’s immensely rewarding. We are doing our best to lift Afghanistan up from its position of fifth poorest country in the world.” He worked long hours and seven days a week, but CDR Waa says the work was immensely satisfying.

 

Crawford, John (1996) In the Field for Peace: New Zealand’s Contribution to International peace-support operations: 1990-1995. NZDF: Wellington 

Chief of Defence Force (2002)  25 Years of Women in the New Zealand Armed Forces

Woodhead, K E (2004) Oral History

Martin, Judith (2006) New Zealand Defence Update 42. Defence Public Relations Unit.

Higher learning returns to Bamian (2004) Air Force News