New Zealand’s Prime Minister has confirmed that plans are underway for the country to deploy a C-130 aircraft and support forces to Afghanistan. They will aid in the evacuation of New Zealand Citizens as well as Afghans who have served with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). This comes as countries around the world continue to grapple with how they should, and can, respond to the rapid capitulation of the Afghan government to the Taliban, and amid mounting criticism that they should have acted earlier. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:
“We have made a decision to deploy the C-130 and accompanying personnel to support the international efforts to evacuate foreign nationals and Afghan nationals as described.”
Ardern made the announcement during a post-cabinet meeting press conference on Monday morning. The Prime Minister said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of 53 New Zealand citizens in Afghanistan. In addition, New Zealand plans to evacuate 37 Afghan Nationals who had served with the NZDF or other government agencies as well as members of their “nuclear families”, meaning dependents and partners.
The deployment by New Zealand is expected to last at least a month, and consist of the aircraft itself, maintainers, aircrew, medical and security personnel. According to New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force (CDF), Air Marshal Kevin Short, this may include members of New Zealand’s special forces, the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS). Air Marshal Kevin Short confirmed:
“We’ll have people there for the security of the aircraft itself. Not necessarily NZSAS, it could be. We are still doing the planning in that detail.”
New Zealand is closely coordinating its efforts with Australia and has shared consular lists with the other country. It has also committed to assisting other countries to evacuate their own citizens and local employees. New Zealand’s announcement follows other nations’ efforts to evacuate personnel and former partners from Kabul’s airport.