Stay in IraqThe government is said to have decided to extend the Zaytun troops’ Iraq deployment once more. The presidential office said that while reducing the size of the contingent by half, from 1,200 to 600, the troops will remain one more year. This is the fourth extension of the Zaytun Division. We understand the decision of the government is an inevitable choice for the national interest and urge a concerted effort by the ruling and opposition parties to endorse the extension when it reaches the National Assembly.
Last December the assembly ratified the proposal for the mission’s extension and reduction of the numbers in Iraq with agreement from 114 members, disagreement from 60, and abstention of 16 out of the then 190 members of the Assembly. The proposal suggested reducing the troop numbers from 2,300 to 1,200 and establishing an integrated plan to complete the mission in Iraq successfully in full consideration of the political situation there and with other allies while extending the stay one year. To wit, the suggestions did not specify the deadline of the stay is the end of 2007.
Considering the long-standing Korea-U.S. alliance, necessary cooperation with the U.S. for the upcoming six-party talks, Korean companies’ development of oil resources in Kurdish region, promotion of rehabilitation projects and accumulating overseas experience for Korean troops, we believe extending the stay, even with a limited number, better serves the national interest than complete withdrawal this year.
Despite controversy over the legitimacy of the Iraq War, we dispatched the Zaytun troops for the interest of the state. But in recognition of domestic and international criticism that the war is without cause, we qualified the responsibilities of the troops to civiv action roles, including post-war rehabilitation and reconstruction after the war and medical support, and continuously reduced the number of troops from the initial 3,600. Some countries have withdrawn their troops, but it is also true that 19 countries, including the United Kingdom, Poland, Australia, Romania and Denmark, nonetheless remain in Iraq. The government seems to ponder the possibility of stipulating the date of withdrawal by 2008 when submitting the troop extension proposal to the Assembly. Leaving room for flexibility, however, is better. The final decision should be made by the next government in the coming year in accordance with the national interest and local developments in Iraq. We do not have to trap ourselves ahead of time.