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Shelved Afghanistan review found 113 flaws

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/03/2017
A map of Afghanistan showing Lashkar Gah in Helmund Province, in relation to the capital, Kabul © BBC A map of Afghanistan showing Lashkar Gah in Helmund Province, in relation to the capital, Kabul

A draft report into Defence Force operations in Afghanistan, shelved after being deemed "insufficiently accurate", has revealed New Zealand personnel had trouble integrating into the NATO-led coalition.

The report, prepared by the J8 Branch of the New Zealand Defence Force in 2013 identified 113 issues, including 96 "major" ones after conducting interviews with deployed staff in Bamiyan, Bagam and Kabul.

In a letter that accompanied the release of the report, following an OIA request from the NZ Herald, Joint Forces Commander Major-General Tim Gall said the document was deemed "insufficiently accurate" to go beyond draft form because the views of the J8 Group varied "quite markedly" from more experienced troops on the ground.

In addition to the 96 major issues "widely reported", a further 17 "less important" minor issues were also identified, including weapon faults causing misfires.

Among the major concerns was a finding that there was a lack of appreciation for how small New Zealand's role was for the coalition.

"NZDF personnel found working within a large coalition structure challenging," it said.

While Kiwis are seen as having a good relationship with coalition partners, the review found that frequently related to personal interactions.

"There was a general lack of experience and understanding of the processes and technical requirements. The experience gained now needs to be incorporated into the relevant training and force preparation courses."

It also recorded a "lack of a cohesive campaign plan" for operations.

"CRIB rotations did not seem to support each other and behaved like individual operations," it said.

The six-monthly rotations also came under fire in the review for not being suitable for all roles.

It suggested staggered deployments, or longer or shorter deployment durations might have worked more effectively, but budget restrictions were identified as a potential flaw.

"It was also not clear how the New Zealand plan fitted into the wider ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] or New Zealand Government campaign plans," the review found.

Other issues included personnel being charged interest on student loans because of their deployment and civilian staff not being paid for weekends they worked.

It revealed personnel bought their own boots after the issued Kiwi Combat Boots were found to break down quickly and cause injuries in the Afghanistan environment.

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