A New-Zealand soldier dies in combat in Afghanistan

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key vowed

Wednesday that his country’s first combat death in Afghanistan would

not affect its military commitment to the region.

   “I don’t think we should cut and run from there today,” he said

after being told of the death of Lieutenant Timothy Andrew O’Donnell,

28, in an ambush in Bamiyan province.

   Key was in Vanuatu attending a regional Pacific summit.

   O’Donnell died when a bomb was detonated under a routine patrol in

a north-east region of the province that Key said was notorious for

insurgent activity.

   An Afghan interpreter was also killed and two other New Zealanders

seriously wounded when the patrol was also attacked by

rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

   The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Jerry

Mateparae, told a news conference in Wellington that their injuries

were serious but not thought life-threatening.

   Key ordered flags on all government and public buildings to be

flown at half-mast in memory of O’Donnell, the first New Zealander to

die in Afghanistan since a Provincial Reconstruction Team of about

140 went to Bamiyan in August 2003.

   Key said most of Bamiyan province was considered to be relatively

safe. “Bamiyan is, I think, an example of where we can hand back

control to the people of Afghanistan.

   “We have been working to make that a reality. It’s not my view

that we should withdraw quicker because of today’s tragic events,” he


  “I think that would do a great disservice to the thousands of

New Zealanders who’ve served in Bamiyan and who have put in so much

energy, effort and commitment to get the province to a point where we

can hand it over in a controlled way.”

   Key said he was still considering whether about 80 Special Air

Service soldiers posted to Kabul would remain in Afghanistan beyond

March. That decision would be made by the end of the year.