중앙데일리

Korea confirms troops are going to Afghanistan

Ministry reiterates more details will be released after a fact-finding tour  PLAY AUDIO

Oct 31,2009
Korea has decided to send troops to Afghanistan to protect civilian professionals helping with rebuilding work in the war-torn nation.

The Foreign Ministry here announced yesterday the nation will dispatch civilians and police and military forces to form a Provincial Reconstruction Team, or PRT, to send to Afghanistan. The government, however, declined to give a specific number of people to travel to Afghanistan.

Moon Tae-young, the ministry spokesman, said the Afghan government had asked for Korea’s support in its rebuilding projects “through multiple channels” and Korea has decided to join the global community and take a more active role in trying to stabilize Afghanistan.

Moon explained that the role of the Korean PRT will be to help with the local Afghan government’s administrative work and economic recovery, and also to provide humanitarian aid.

“Our PRT will be made up of civilian experts who can make a real, practical contribution to Afghanistan,” the spokesman said. “And we will also send police and military forces to provide adequate protection for the civilians. We’ll do that in accordance with the domestic law, such as gaining the National Assembly approval.”

Moon stressed these forces will not engage in combat activities and will only be tasked with providing security for the PRT.

He reiterated that the specifics of the PRT, including its size, the location of its base and the nature of its work, will be determined after a government fact-finding team completes its on-site search. The fact-finding unit will fly to Afghanistan some time during next month.

A high-ranking ministry official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, explained that it could take “between four and six months” before the PRT is set up in Afghanistan, based on cases of other countries with such teams there.

According to data provided by the Foreign Ministry, 21 countries are either operating or supporting PRTs in Afghanistan. Their size varies from fewer than 100 to more than 700.

The official refused to provide a set number of civilians and troops, saying only that there will be “a couple hundred” people. He said the number of police and military forces will depend on the number of civilian workers, the type of their work, and the security situation on the base.

In May this year, the Korean government approved a $19.5 million assistance package for Afghanistan that included an increase in the number of PRT workers from 25 to up to 85 in Bagram, north of the capital Kabul, by early next year. On Monday, Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told the National Assembly that the PRT would include at least 130.

Korea’s political parties had mixed reactions. The Grand National Party said it’s time for Korea to be more responsible in the international community and called on the government to provide sufficient support to ensure the safety of the PRT.

But the main opposition Democratic Party urged more caution against sending military forces since their presence could increase the threat of terrorism against Korean citizens in the area.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]




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