Fears as Rocket Attacks on Korea's Afghan Base Increase

      June 23, 2011 12:22

      The Korean government is worried after the base of its contingent in Afghanistan was hit by insurgent rockets on Monday for the 10th time this year. Two rockets landed in the drill ground of the base in Charikar, the capital of Parwan province, at around 10 p.m. that day.

      As it turned out, the base has been attacked once every 17 days. No casualties have occurred so far. But officials of the Korean foreign and defense ministries are all nerves due to the possibility that casualties could occur anytime.

      In February, a rocket attack came right after Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin's secret visit to the base. Even a rocket landed in an area between the mess hall and the command post in the base.

      Especially, the frequency of attacks increased. The base was hit by rockets as many as five times only after the U.S.'s killing of Taliban leader Osama bin Laden in May.

      Korean soldiers of the Oshino unit patrol the perimeter of their base in Afghanistan in mine-proof vehicles.

      Korea's Provincial Reconstruction Team base was built 6 km east of the Parwan provincial government office in Charikar in July last year. About 500 Korean engineers and security forces are staying there.

      Most of the rockets originated from a village just 1 km from the base, but the Korean military has failed to identify who fired them.

      Korea's 350-strong Oshino unit, which is in charge of security at the base, has been unable to do its job. Instead, it relies on U.S. special forces at the nearby Bagram base for its outer area security. But as rocket attacks increased, U.S. special forces have often not arrived in time.

      The Korean government has reportedly instructed troops to stay inside the base in case of any resistance or attacks from local residents. The Afghan central and Parwan provincial governments have promised to do their best, but the situation is worsening.

      Most of the rocket attacks on the PRT were apparently caused by conflicts among local security companies, Korean government officials say. Last year when the PRT began its activities, the Korean government selected a local security firm that has close connections with senior officials at the Afghan central government. But it turned out that these officials do not have much say in Parwan, and Korea has been pressured several times to hire the services of a firm that has ties with local influential people.

      Before it dispatched the troops to Afghanistan, Seoul saw Charikar as a safe zone, but it has recently classified the region as a "grey area" that may have ties with the Taliban.

      A diplomatic source said, "Nobody can rule out that some residents in Charikar are shooting rockets for money."

      The situation could worsen further when the U.S. begins preparations next month to pull troops out of some regions. Korea's PRT is supposed to stay there until December next year.

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