Posted October. 28, 2009 06:46,
Many in the Korean government stress the need for expanding the scope of assistance and sending troops to Afghanistan to strengthen Seouls diplomacy.
The consensus, however, is that the expansion of the Korean reconstruction team in the war-torn country is the most realistic option because of the social and political consequences of a troop dispatch.
○ Meaning of 130
Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Yu Myung-hwan told the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee of the National Assembly Monday, We are considering sending at least 130 civil experts to Afghanistan to help reconstruction work.
To this, a government official in Seoul said, One hundred thirty is the minimum number needed to operate an independent provincial reconstruction team, adding, This is to build a separate base camp independent of troops from other countries.
Thirty Korean civilians are working under U.S. military protection at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Setting up an independent base camp is inevitable, however, if the number of Korean staff increases.
A separate camp for the reconstruction team needs Korean troops for protection. So Seoul believes it can achieve the same effect as sending troops by dispatching security forces.
Along with additional civilian workers, some 300 security forces including police officers are expected to be sent to Afghanistan.
On criticism that the dispatch is part of a troop dispatch, the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said, It has nothing to do with the U.S. We will make such a decision based on our own needs.
On speculation that Seoul will make a final decision before U.S. President Barak Obamas visit to Korea, a presidential official said Obamas visit and the dispatch are separate matters.
○ Remaining procedures
A Foreign Ministry official said, When the overall stance is set on support for Afghanistan, we will immediately send a fact-finding team to select an appropriate place for a camp, adding, Considering the survey results and requests from the Afghan government, we will provide additional support.
A senior presidential aide said, To deploy security forces next year, a final decision should be made by years end at the latest.
On a separate base for the reconstruction team, Minister Yu said, Three provinces have no provincial reconstruction teams, adding, We will choose one from the three that is safe and fits our needs the most.
When the direction for Afghan assistance is set, Korea is expected to expand the scope of support. Korean workers are providing medical assistance, police and vocational training, and supplying equipment.
Though unclear whether the assistance will be expanded to include the training of firefighters and keeping the peace, the expansion of the reconstruction team will lead to aid in a number of areas.