From the mid-20th century terrorism was increasingly used by disaffected groups of many nationalities, in particular those engaged in asymmetrical struggles against states and governments. It has been used by militant groups of the right and the left, by separatist nationalists and by religious extremists. Following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US by adherents of the militant Islamist group Al Qaeda, terrorism became associated in the popular mind with Islamic extremists.
Over the years New Zealand has been an active contributor to the international military, political and financial campaigns against terrorism, including most recently those against Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
New Zealand flag retrieved from rubble
A New Zealand flag stored in the flag room of the World Trade Center in New York was found in the rubble of the twin towers after the 11 September 2001 attack. It is now displayed in the stairwell of the New Zealand Parliament’s first floor foyer. The battered and torn flag is dedicated to the memory of New York firefighters, police and others who died as they went to the rescue of people trapped in the buildings after the attack.
United Nations resolutions
As part of its commitment to United Nations (UN) actions to counter terrorism, New Zealand has ratified 14 UN anti-terrorism conventions, including the 2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention and the 1999 Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
New Zealand also fully complies with the UN Security Council’s counter-terrorism resolutions, including through regular reporting to the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee and to the UN committee on sanctions against Al Qaeda.
New Zealand casualties
Until the 2019 Christchurch mosque killings, New Zealand itself was not the victim of a large-scale terrorist attack. However, New Zealanders living or travelling overseas were amongst the victims of such attacks. At least two New Zealanders were killed at the World Trade Center in 2001, three in bombings in Bali in 2002, one in bombings in London in 2005, and one in a bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2009.
New Zealand and the Afghanistan war
New Zealand public reaction to the war in Afghanistan was relatively muted. This may be due to the limited media coverage of the activities of New Zealand forces and the relatively small number of casualties. The awarding of the Victoria Cross to SAS soldier Corporal Willie Apiata, for bravery under fire in 2004, was generally greeted with public approval. On the other hand, investigative journalists claimed that SAS troops were involved in operations in which civilians were killed in August 2010, and transferred Afghan prisoners to US and Afghan forces that used torture in interrogations in early 2011. An inquiry into the former allegation found in 2020 that the SAS operations had been justified but that there had been deficiencies in subsequent NZDF investigations into possible civilian casualties.
In November 2001 New Zealand committed military assistance to ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, a United States-initiated and -led military operation in Afghanistan that ran in parallel to the NATO-led stabilisation operations of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Between 2003 and 2013 a 122-person Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was deployed in Bamyan province on six-month rotations, maintaining security in conjunction with local authorities and the Afghan National Police. The PRT undertook patrols and acted as project manager for New Zealand Aid Programme teams. The PRT consisted of liaison teams supported by infantry, engineers, staff officers, and communications and logistics staff.
Other New Zealand Defence Force officers were deployed to Afghanistan in a variety of logistical, instructional, liaison, and policy and planning roles. They worked to a number of different headquarters, including ISAF, UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission Afghanistan), HQ CJTF (HQ Coalition Joint Task Force) and CFC (Combined Forces Command).
Thirty-eight support personnel and SAS soldiers worked as a training and support element alongside the Afghanistan National Police Crisis Response Unit. This group provided personal protection to key Afghan figures and responded to terrorist incidents in the Kabul area.
Ten New Zealand soldiers died while stationed in Afghanistan, eight of them in combat.
Earlier commitments to the operations included the deployment of a navy frigate and an air force Orion to the Persian Gulf for participation in maritime operations.