Seoul Didn’t Promise Taliban Not to Deploy Troops to Kabul Again
By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea did not promise the Taliban it wouldn't send troops again to Afghanistan in 2007 when a group of Korean nationals were released by the Islamic militant group, a senior government official said Tuesday.
The comment comes as the government is preparing to send hundreds of civil reconstruction workers and escort troops to the terrorism-stricken Central Asian nation again at the request of the U.S. administration.
Progressive civic groups and war-weary lawmakers are denouncing the move, however, citing a high possibility of losing the lives of Koreans there. They also criticize the government for reversing a pledge made by the previous administration not to re-deploy its troops to Afghanistan.
"There was no promise (to the Taliban) that South Korea would not re-deploy its troops to Afghanistan," said the official at the Ministry of National Defense, requesting anonymity. "We've checked with officials involved in the 2007 negotiations with the Taliban if there was such a promise."
In July 2007, a group of 23 Christian volunteers were kidnapped by the Taliban while traveling on a bus in Ghazni Province. The extremists killed two men in the group before freeing the others after holding the Koreans for 43 days.
South Korean negotiators under the control of the National Intelligence Service at that time reportedly offered a deal to withdraw 210 non-combatant troops from Afghanistan by that year's end and prevent any evangelical activities in the nation by Korean churches.
Rumors abounded that the then Roh Moo-hyun administration paid a substantial ransom of up to $500,000 for the freedom of the hostages. The government neither confirmed nor denied the allegation.
South Korean forces returned home in December 2007, ending five years of humanitarian operations in the war-torn nation.
The Dongui Medical Unit was dispatched to Afghanistan in September 2002 to support the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom aimed at toppling the Taliban regime that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. The Dasan Engineering Unit was sent to the country a year later.
The operation was initiated in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Islamic extremists refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, who the United States accused of masterminding the attacks on U.S. soil.
Washington also aimed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base for operations.