A look at New Zealand troops in East Timor

THU, 19 NOV 2009 6:45P.M.
By Mike McRoberts
During East Timor's violent recent history nearly half of New Zealand’s defence force was engaged in peace-keeping duties there.

Today, New Zealand still has as many troops in East Timor as in Afghanistan.

But the country has enjoyed peace for some years now and the main challenge is deciding when our troops should come home for good.

The peacekeepers are now starting to look for other work including rebuilding schools, stadiums and medical facilities.

There’s no doubt New Zealand’s military presence here is a calming influence and as President: Jose Ramos-Horta presented each soldier with an East Timorese medal today, he was quick to praise the Kiwis.

“People can be very proud, when you ask East Timorese people what they think of New Zealand soldiers they have only good things to say” he says.

Perhaps the greater challenge facing New Zealand and East Timor’s governments is deciding how long the troops will keep coming. 

Ultimately this decision lies with the President who says that ideally the Australian and New Zealand troops will stay in East Timor until the country’s next election in three years time.

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