Summer deployment approved for Afghanistan

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Summer deployment approved for Afghanistan

The National Assembly yesterday approved a plan to dispatch Korean troops to Afghanistan on a mission to protect civilians working on recovery projects in the war-torn nation.

Some 350 troops will be sent to Parwan Province this summer with a mandate of a two and a half years.

The deployment marks a return to Afghanistan for Korean troops. Medical and engineering units were first dispatched to the country in 2002 but were pulled out completely in 2007 after the Taliban killed two Korean church workers from a group it had taken hostage and warned of “bad consequences” if Korean forces remained in Afghanistan.

The renewed deployment plan was passed yesterday by conservative lawmakers largely led by the Grand National Party. The Democrats walked out of the voting session to protest the redeployment, but did not physically block passage of the bill. A total of 163 lawmakers attended the session, and 148 voted for the plan. Five voted against it, while 10 abstained.

The Ministry of National Defense said it is planning to complete the selection of soldiers by the middle of next month.

“After the selection, troops will receive intensive military training under the Special Warfare Command,” said a defense official on condition of anonymity.

Civilian provincial reconstruction team members will be trained separately, the official said.

The ministry will also purchase armored vehicles and improve the functions of the Black Hawk utility helicopters by the end of June to protect the Koreans in Afghanistan.

The advance and main units of the team will be dispatched in the middle of June and early July, respectively. The Korea International Cooperation Agency will cooperate with the military to coordinate details about their missions, the ministry said.

By Lee Min-yong []
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