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New Zealand special air service troops arrive in Afghanistan

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A group of 71 New Zealand Special Air Service (SAS) troops have arrived in Afghanistan, Prime Minister John Key announced on Monday.

    New Zealand would provide three rotations of SAS troops during the next 18 months.

    Key described the deployment as a dangerous assignment, and told a press conference that he cannot rule out the possibility of casualties.

    The troops will be under the control of the commander of the NATO international security assistance force in Afghanistan, but overall command will be retained by the chief of the New Zealand Defense Force, through an SAS commander in the field.

    About 140 New Zealand Defense Force personnel are running a provincial reconstruction team in Bamyan province, which the Government intends gradually winding up.

    It is the fourth SAS deployment to Afghanistan, the last being in 2005 under the previous Labor government.

    Key made the arrival announcement just before leaving for New York, where he is expected to briefly meet United States President Barack Obama.

    The United States asked for the SAS to be again sent to Afghanistan, and Key denied that his announcement on Monday was timed to coincide with his trip.

    Key made the announcement at his post-Cabinet news conference, hours before leaving for New York for a series of meetings at the United Nations

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