The Taliban on Wednesday hailed the announcement by New Zealand to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by May.
"We welcome the decision by New Zealand that is in line with the Doha agreement," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said in a tweet.
“We urge all countries that have exhausted their troops in a long unwinnable war in Afghanistan to take similar steps,” he added, as NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels to decide on the fate of the Afghan mission.
Washington struck a deal with the Taliban last year to withdraw all US forces in exchange for security guarantees. But the new US administration led by President Joe Biden has announced it will review the agreement given the surge in violence.
Besides other attacks, at least 11 Afghan human rights defenders and journalists have been killed in the last five months, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
“After 20 years of a New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) presence in Afghanistan, it is now time to conclude our deployment,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement earlier in the day.
“The deployments to Afghanistan have been one of the longest running in our history, and I wish to acknowledge the 10 New Zealanders who lost their lives in the line of duty."
From 3,500 personnel at peak since the 2001 US-led invasion, New Zealand currently has six soldiers – three each at the Afghanistan National Army Officer Academy, and the NATO Resolute Support Mission Headquarters.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the intra-Afghan peace process, which began last September in Qatar but is currently stalled, "affords Afghanistan the best prospect of an enduring political solution."
“New Zealand will continue to be supportive of the Afghan Government and its people in the years to come, including as they work through the intra-Afghan peace process in an effort to resolve the decades-long conflict,” she said.