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Korean Troop Deployment to Afghanistan Mulled

Posted May. 05, 2009 06:15,   


The Defense Ministry is considering deployment of Korean troops to Afghanistan through a review by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. The ministry will likely finalize its decision by June through an internal assessment based on the results of the review.

Military sources said yesterday that the ministry commissioned the institute early last month to conduct an overall review of the deployment of Korean troops to Afghanistan.

“The military will thoroughly analyze whether to deploy troops by considering the situation in Afghanistan and practical national interests, including Korea-U.S. relations,” one source said. “The institute will finalize a report within this year’s first half and report the result to the Defense Ministry.”

The report will remain classified.

A ministry official said, “Since the military has begun a policy review on whether to deploy troops to Afghanistan, an issue which some in the government has proposed, the report could mention the size of troops and the timing if troop deployment is decided on.”

The military will likely finalize its decision and report its plan to the government before the Korea-U.S. summit next month based on the result of the review.

A senior military officer said, “Troop deployment to Afghanistan requires a more thorough review because the security situation there is more serious than Iraq’s.”

Many in the Korean military, however, are opposed to the proposed deployment given the potential backlash if a Korean solider is injured or killed. Petty Officer Yoon Jang-ho of the Dasan unit was killed by militia in Afghanistan in February 2007.

The officer said, “For this reason, certain government officials want to drastically raise the number of private reconstruction team members instead of troop deployment,” adding, “Once the government chooses to deploy troops, however, the military will begin preparation for dispatch in light of its judgment."

If Korean troops are deployed to Afghanistan, chances are high that Seoul will send hundreds or around 1,000 troops in the form of the Zaytun unit, which conducted post-war reconstruction, technical training of civilians and other operations in northern Iraq.