New Zealand faces a "horrible dilemma" in pulling troops out of an increasingly violent Afghanistan as it will expose the locals the soldiers are there to protect, says the author of a book examining the country's role there.
Following the deadliest day in Afghanistan for New Zealand troops, where three soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb, Prime Minister John Key says the thinking is to bring the 140 troops home early next year, after 10 years' service.
The government had been thinking along those lines before two soldiers were killed in a firefight earlier this month, he said.
The Taliban is claiming responsibility for all five deaths, which has doubled New Zealand's 10-year death toll to 10 in just over two weeks.
Journalist Nicky Hager, who last year published Other People's Wars, about New Zealand's role in Afghanistan and the war on terror, said he believed more soldiers would die the longer they stayed.
But there was a "horrible dilemma" in that pulling out early would leave the Bamyan locals exposed to the increasing violence.
"What is safest for the troops is worse for the local people," he told NZ Newswire.
"Does that mean the last 10 years have been just hot air and we didn't care about the local people?"
New Zealand had always been performing security work in one of the quietist and safest areas of Afghanistan, but the New Zealand Defence Force had painted it as a reconstruction operation and that the soldiers had the interests of locals at heart.
"We didn't do much in the way of reconstruction. New Zealand got spun."
New Zealand should be pushing as hard as possible for a United Nations solution, rather than being part of a US-led occupation force, Hager said.
New Zealand should have pulled out years ago, but had stayed on because of its relationship with the US alliance, he said.