Posted March. 27, 2009 08:47,
The government will reportedly send troops to Afghanistan to help the war-torn country rebuild and secure stability, and is reviewing the scale of deployment and schedules.
The dispatch will be done in the same way as the Zaytun unit, which conducted a peacekeeping mission in Iraq, a high-ranking Korean government source said.
As 42 countries have dispatched troops to Afghanistan, Korea, a close ally of the United States and a country with both economic and military prowess, can no longer delay troop dispatch or turn a deaf ear to the U.S. request, the official said.
Though we`ve yet to get an official request from Washington, it has asked for our help directly and indirectly. So the (Korean) government has decided to send troops.
Like the Zaytun unit, military engineers will comprise most of the unit`s members and the number will likely be under 1,000, he added.
A diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity, Government officials made preliminary contact with their U.S. counterparts over the proposed troop dispatch to Afghanistan last week and full-fledged discussion among relevant ministries has started.
Chances are that U.S. President Barack Obama will bring up the issue at his first meeting with President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of the (Group of 20) summit in London April 2. As part of the preparation for the summit, the (Korean) government has decided to send troops.
Seoul will make a final decision on the number of troops, a date for the dispatch, and the region where the troops will be stationed after reviewing the situation in Afghanistan and public opinion here.
A detailed plan will be finalized around June when a Korea-U.S. summit is expected and sent to the June extra parliamentary session in Korea for approval. The dispatch will likely take place in the latter half of the year under this schedule.
At an international conference on Afghanistan in The Hague Tuesday, the United States is likely to make an official request to Korea for the dispatch after coming up with concrete strategies and an international cooperation system to stabilize Afghanistan.
Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung-hwan will attend the conference and discuss guaranteeing sustainable security and achieving economic and social development.
In February 2003, Korea sent the Dongui-Dasan unit to a U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, for medical and construction activities. In the wake of the kidnapping of Korean missionaries by Taliban militants in July 2007, the government pledged to pull out its troops and withdrew them completely from Afghanistan in December the same year.
Twenty-four soldiers in the provincial reconstruction team are now stationed in Bagram for medical support.