The two from our Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) were killed after an ambush in Afghanistan on Saturday night. Six other soldiers were also wounded. The Taliban has claimed responsibility, saying it was part of a spring offensive.
The PRT has been in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Province for nine years. Prime Minister John Key said the attack could signal a show of strength from the Taliban to undermine the confidence of the people of Bamiyan, because they know NZ is leaving before the end of next year.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said it was a sad day for the Defence Force, which he said is a very close-knit family: "This is going to be felt very heavily across the NZDF."
John Key added it was a "terrible day for NZ", "a shocking outcome". But should we be that shocked? Is this just a political platitude?
Soldiers train for combat, knowing they may have to engage an enemy and attempt to kill them. They're also very aware that the enemy will attempt the same thing. Troops in a hot zone know the risks and if they were not prepared to accept them, they'd quit. So these people are intentially putting themselves in harm's way - not suicidally, but bravely. I have great respect for them, but zero for anyone who may be milking the situation for political mileage, or a possible sensational news story (such as the TV One reporter who demanded to know why soldiers in a "reconstruction" team were armed and in a firefight!! Well, she was blonde! Duuhh!)
I'm not being callous or flippant, because naturally the families concerned will be gutted, but 'dancing with death' is part of the job spec. Yes, these men and others before them have paid the highest price but, if this is a political reaction to two deaths, its obvious our current leadership would have struggled to handle the casualties of prior major conflicts.
At least our Gov.-General Sir Jerry Mateparae (ex-military), while offering condolences, was more realistic saying serving in war-torn countries carried significant risk.
We should not be surprised by more kiwi deaths before our time trying to help the Afghan people is over.
PS: 20 Aug.2012 - Three more NZ soldiers are killed in Bamiyan, including our first female loss.