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[Opinion] Investigators to Afghanistan

Posted January. 02, 2009 03:00,   


I met in May last year a field officer of the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, Japan. He said with a sigh, “Afghanistan is hell for U.S. forces.” Having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the officer said U.S. forces in Iraq have enough arms including cutting-edge weapons and budget, while those in Afghanistan are struggling because of insufficient supply of new weapons. He predicted that as Washington leans toward Iraq, U.S. forces in Afghanistan will continue to suffer.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has said he will shift the focus of the war on terror from Iraq to Afghanistan, but Afghanistan remains a dangerous battlefield. The Associated Press said 314 U.S. soldiers were killed last year, down a third from 2007, while 151 died in Afghanistan, up 35 percent. An international private think tank in a report said the Taliban has restored power by setting up strongholds in 72 percent of the country.

The Korean government plans to send an investigation team to Afghanistan in the wake of the Obama administration’s expected request to Seoul for deploying troops to Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said a few days ago, “It is our obligation to help rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, which are in their most difficult situation in the war on terror.” The term “help” does not necessarily mean sending troops, but Seoul must check conditions there thoroughly. It is never late to decide whether to help or not.

The war in Afghanistan is being led by the United States and NATO. Forty-one countries have sent troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, but most of the forces are from NATO member nations: the United States (19,950); the United Kingdom (8,745); Germany (3,600); France (2,785); Canada (2,750); and Italy (2,350). Non-NATO members have sent dozens of soldiers to Afghanistan except for Australia (1,090). Korea is neither a NATO member nor has special relations with Afghanistan. Korea is a U.S. ally, but Afghanistan is a country far away and not crucial to Korea’s interests as the United States or NATO countries.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)