New Zealand will withdraw its 145 troops from Afghanistan in 2013, a year ahead of schedule, reflecting the outstanding work of the New Zealand provincial reconstruction team (PRT).

The troops, stationed in central Bamiyan province since 2003, would maintain a development role in the province and provide training for army officers in Afghanistan. The move will allow local authorities to handle operations in the country while NATO forces gradually withdraws its troops, possibly ending the decade long conflict.

President Barack Obama assured Afghanistan that the pulling back of troops will not mean abandoning the country to fight against the Taliban. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that “there will be no rush for the exits.”

Foreign troops will continue to fight the Taliban while also advising and supporting Afghan soldiers until they are properly equipped with capabilities to be left on their own. Forty elite SAS troops from New Zealand ended their mission in March this year.