Talks with the TalibanThe Korean government and the Taliban kidnappers are likely to have a face-to-face meeting. There are differences of opinion on where negotiations will take place but this should not be a big problem. Korean negotiators won’t be difficult about a place and they are ready to visit anywhere, even somewhere very dangerous. There are also burdens in dealing directly with a terrorist group, but we are in too desperate a situation to stick to a principle or be picky about the form of the meeting.
It has also been reported that two women among the 21 Korean hostages are critically ill. We cannot trust everything the militants say, but this sounds probable. When negotiations start, the first thing for the Korean delegation to do is to make sure the two women are given medical treatment. The government must persuade the Taliban that it won’t do any good for them if they do nothing and these two sick women die.
Six medical professionals from a local hospital in Afghanistan volunteered to take care of the ill hostages and went to the site. If it is hard to release the two hostages, they at least must be allowed to receive medical care from the local doctors.
It is important also to have a long deadline for the negotiations in order to prevent more killings. The government must say clearly what it can do and cannot do. It must let the Taliban know that it will carry out all its promises. However, the Korean government also must make it clear that if more killings take place, negotiations will end immediately and it will be the Taliban’s responsibility for what happens afterwards.
We do not have the authority or the means to meet the Taliban’s principle demand, the release of its prisoners in Afghan jails. Thus, these negotiations may be something close to mission impossible. But we have to believe that our sincere efforts will pay off and appeal to the Taliban’s last shred of conscience. Indirect negotiations through the Afghan government have not worked
Direct negotiations may be the last chance to resolve the hostage crisis by talking. The lives of 21 innocent Koreans are depending on the government’s delegation. They should be well prepared for the negotiations, and we pray that they will carry out their duty with wisdom and courage.