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Obama: US Troops in Korea Could Move to Afghanistan

Posted November. 21, 2009 09:13,   


U.S. President Barack Obama has hinted at possibly moving American forces stationed in Korea to Afghanistan.

In a speech to American troops at the U.S. Air Force base in Osan near Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province Thursday, Obama was quoted by the U.S. military daily Stars and Stripes as saying, “You volunteered in a time of war, knowing that you could be sent into harm’s way,” the president said. “Many of you served in Iraq, while some of you did in Afghanistan. Some others will be redeployed (to Iraq and Afghanistan).”

Several U.S. soldiers applauded and cheered, but the rest were in a serious and downbeat mood. The response apparently stemmed from a worry over possible redeployment to the Middle East, and fellow servicemen wish not to return to Iraq or Afghanistan in the near future, the daily said.

Obama apparently made the comments to stress the need for all American troops, including those stationed in Korea, to join the operations before making a decision to send more troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, where the situation is further deteriorating.

A source at the Korea-U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “His comments were only based on principle, and he didn’t mean that the U.S. Forces Korea or another U.S. military unit could be relocated to the Middle East.”

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, spoke of the possibility of troop transfer to the Middle East to U.S. soldiers in Korea last month when he visited Seoul to attend the Korea-U.S. Security Consultation Meeting.

So Obama’s comments could be construed as having the same meaning, causing intense debate among watchers.

A Korean military source said, “If the U.S. takes steps to redeploy additional troops to Afghanistan in earnest, there is a chance that U.S. troops stationed in Korea will be included as part of the contingent to go to overseas in compliance with the strategic flexibility agreement between Korea and the U.S.”