Korea Should Not Be Swayed by Taliban Threats

      December 11, 2009 12:36

      The Taliban has sent a warning to Korea over its dispatch of personnel to Afghanistan. In an e-mailed statement, the Taliban mentioned an incident in 2007 when a group of Korean missionaries who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan were released. At that time, Korea promised to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and refrain from sending any more soldiers, and if it breaks this promise and deploys troops, it must prepare for "bad consequences," the Taliban warned.

      This is not unforeseen. Korean troops and civilian personnel are not going to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban but to help the Afghan people rebuild their country. Korea's contribution to the international community cannot be stopped by just one threat. But one thing is clear: the situation in Afghanistan is different from the Kurdish region of Iraq where Korea's Zaytun Unit was based.

      Afghanistan's Parwan Province, where Korean personnel are being sent, is said to be safer than other parts of that country, but there have been sporadic attacks by the Taliban using improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rockets and mortars.

      The biggest threat is the crudely made but powerful IEDs. More than half of the fatalities among multinational forces in Afghanistan were caused by IEDs, and the armored vehicles operated by the Korean military cannot protect troops against them. The rocket-propelled grenades used by the Taliban pose threats to even the U.S. military's M1A1 main battle tanks. The first priority of the Korean contingent is to borrow mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles from the U.S. military. If the contingent is transported by helicopter, the lack of proper armor makes them vulnerable to attacks. In order to prevent another incident like the 2007 kidnapping, the government must bolster protection for Koreans and make sure no unwary civilian groups enter Afghanistan to engage in reckless projects.

      The Korean police are closely monitoring 75 foreigners in connection with potential terrorist activities. This is a clear reminder that Korea is not immune to terror attack.

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