WELLINGTON, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Senior New Zealand defense officials Friday praised the work of the country's armed forces in the Bamyan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan as the New Zealand flag came down there after 10 years.
Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, said at a ceremony to mark the event at the New Zealand base in Bamian town that the PRT had provided the security to allow New Zealand to leave a lasting legacy in the province.
"The impact of our development projects in the last 10 years is considerable. It is clearly visible in the classrooms built, the hospitals refurbished, the villages with water supplies, the sealed roads, bridges and flood protection that have been constructed," he said in a statement from his office.
"Bamyan remains one of the more secure provinces in Afghanistan. The Defence Force's active engagement with the local population and our strong relationship with key leaders, coupled with development projects and community involvement, has helped to minimize influence from insurgents."
More than 3,500 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel had served in Afghanistan since 2001. most of them in the Bamyan PRT, and 10 have been killed.
The last personnel from the 21st rotation to the PRT are expected to return home this month.
A memorial was unveiled to commemorate eight New Zealand soldiers and 23 men from the Afghan National Security Forces who had died in Bamyan Province.
Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said at the ceremony that rebuilding a country "devastated by Taliban rule" had been a major commitment for New Zealand.
"Our people have provided security, mentoring and training across a whole range of military, policing, governance, development and aid activities," he said in a published speech.
The NZDF is to keep 27 personnel in Afghanistan as part of the international assistance force.