Lives on the lineThe redeployment of troops to Afghanistan will almost certainly be on the agenda at the South Korea-U.S. summit on June 16 in Washington, D.C., now that the issue has resurfaced in the Korean media.
The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry here said the United States has not actually asked for redeployment and thus Seoul is not reviewing that possibility.
But when what’s really going on is so obvious, sweeping the issue under the carpet is not the answer.
The Korean government should not be forced to make a hasty decision on this matter after agonizing over it for some time.
The situation in Afghanistan is not getting any better. Outside of the capital Kabul, many parts of the country are largely under the control of the Taliban, which is rapidly expanding its influence over the southeastern area bordering Pakistan.
In desperate need for help, the United States has understandably asked South Korea, one of its allies, to offer assistance.
But any decision to dispatch South Korean troops to Afghanistan should not be based purely on loyalty.
The lives of Koreans are at stake, and this will have great influence over public sentiment.
Some would say having Korean soldiers in Afghanistan would not be a problem since our Zaytun troops have already served in Iraq.
But this is an uninformed view. Afghanistan is not Iraq. There is no equivalent Green Zone, a relatively safe area within Baghdad.
Once in Afghanistan, soldiers will have to risk their lives to fight Taliban soldiers, which is why we can never deliberate too much on future redeployment.
America’s European allies have been reluctant to embrace U.S. calls for help in Afghanistan for similar reasons.
For now, the Korean government plans to increase the size of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from 24 members to 90. It will also expand civilian support.
The United States appears to understand Korea’s plight and may not be pressing hard for redeployment just right now.
The best case scenario for us would be to end this discussion by merely upping our financial support. But we can’t rule out the possibility that the situation in Afghanistan could deteriorate further. As such, the government should not categorically declare that redeployment will not take place.
Whether Washington’s call for help has been made through an official or an unofficial channel, the government should be open with the public and then try to persuade the people if necessary.