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Our polls show a split vote on SAS staying in Afghanistan

Aug 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

poll 1

ArmyMain2WELLINGTONIANS are evenly split over whether the SAS should be withdrawn from Afghanistan, but a clear majority thinks the Kiwi reconstruction team should stay, according to polls run by NewsWire reporters.

The polls were conducted via the internet, the NewsWire home page, a street survey and a random phone sample which contacted about 1000 people.

Of the 543 who participated in the phone poll this week and asked whether they thought the NZ SAS should be involved in the war, 236 (43%) said no, 219 (40%) answered yes and 88 (16%) did not know.

While 65% of those polled said they supported the presence of New Zealand’s provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Bamiyan province, 16% disagreed and 19% did not know.

Some people were unaware of the PRT or its role and others did not know PRT members carried weapons, and were less supportive when told.

Comments about the SAS presence that came in via the various polls included:

  • You can’t reconstruct a country by shooting people, so the SAS shouldn’t be there.
  • SAS know what they’re getting into – they can’t choose their battles.
  • I think the NZ SAS should stay out of the war…we’ve participated more than enough in that area.
  • I’m an infantry soldier in the NZ Army. LT Tim O’Donnell was one of my commanders and I know I speak on behalf of all soldiers – we should not pull out. If anything, we need to send more soldiers over there.
  • As little involvement as possible in the fighting.
  • Pulling our troops out now will undo a lot of the good work they have been doing so far, although I support our troops coming home in the near future.
  • I do not believe in military intervention. There must be a better way to support oppressed people.
  • Would rather fight terrorists in their backyard than in ours
  • I don’t see any reason for us to be over there. We have no responsibility to be there at all, other than to kiss American arse it would seem.
  • They should be there in a peacekeeping wing.
  • It’ll keep the SAS up to speed.

Comments about the PRT presence included:

  • The PRT at Bamiyan Province is great and should keep up the assistance.
  • The PRT should be there if in conjunction with schools and communities, but we should not be in charge – we should work with the Afghanis.
  • I agree in peace keeping, but uniformed army officer is the same as sending the troops in.
  • It’s not our job building houses for others.
  • The PRT being there is a highly positive vision.
  • It should be run by a non-military agency.
  • [I] like the idea that the PRT help organise the projects but then they are run by locals thereby giving employment and a means to live to those affected.
  • NZ shows we are there to reconstruct, not just combat terrorism.
  • We should do everything possible to support the reconstruction of developing nations.
  • The PRT should be there even more so, as we have a duty to get them back on their feet as a nation.

General comments included:

  • ArmyMAINCan’t just pull out…if you start a mess, don’t leave one. If you’re going to pull out you must do it in an intelligent way and have a plan.
  • NZ has no business there. We need to learn from history.
  • [I’m] not happy with any war.
  • We have a responsibility to work with the rest of the world – we are no longer an isolated island.

NZ has four reconstruction teams and they assess political, civil and military reform efforts through community engagement and promote reconstruction in the area.

graph3The key roles of the SAS are to undertake overseas missions and respond to domestic terrorist attacks.

There are currently there are around 250 New Zealand troops in Afghanistan.

The death of New Zealand soldier Lt Timothy O’Donnell, brought the war back into sharper focus, alongside publicity surrounding leaks of US classified war material on controversial website WikiLeaks.

“How can anyone think we should be there after graph4wiki leaks?” said one respondent.

A strong anti-American feeling was also evident in some comments: “It’s America’s war, not ours” said one.

Another: “I think Afghans should be allowed to govern their own country and the American influence has done no good at all – they are only there to exploit the mineral wealth.”

The four polls differed in approach and samples.

While the phone poll sample was chosen randomly from the Wellington phone book (with the 543 responses gained from more than 1000 calls), the online poll was confined to the contacts of NewsWire reporters and most answers came from people under the age of 30.

graph1While a street survey in Wellington city centre recorded the views of only 35 people, the result was similar to that gathered in the phone poll.

It showed a general consensus for retaining the PRT and more than half saying the SAS should return to New Zealand.

Over half were against the SAS being present in Afghanistan and 48% supported the PRT.

The NewsWire online poll, which has been running for about three weeks, had a similar outcome to the phone and street surveys, with 41% of the 81 respondents wanting both SAS and the PRT brought home.

Text by Kate Melzer, Owen Winter & Nicole Bennik.

Graphics by Amie Hickland, Rachael Holmes, Anita De Muth & Jonathan Chilton-Towle.

All photos supplied by Jack Howard.

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