S.K.'s dilemma over sending troops to Afghanistan (K. Herald, 5.12):
Obama said to request Afghan troop support
Korea's dilemma over sending troop support to Afghanistan appeared to deepen
amid reports saying the United States made requests for Seoul to dispatch a
contingency of military mechanics to help rebuild the region.
Military sources yesterday allegedly said that officials from the United
States Department of Defense "informally" requested the dispatch to support
the U.S. and international efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, where President
Barack Obama, flanked by his allies and members of NATO, are combating the
The DoD officials are said to have raised the issue during talks with
high-ranking officers of the United States Forces Korea and the Combined
USFK Commander Gen. Walter Sharp and Deputy Commander Gen. Lee Sung-chool of
Korea were in Washington from May 4-8, but CFC officials said they could not
confirm whether the pair had held such discussions on Afghanistan with U.S.
Seoul's Defense Ministry said it has not heard of the conversation on the
"We also are unaware of any requests from Washington regarding a dispatch to
Afghanistan of any kind other than the support we have already committed,"
said ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae.
If the military presence is requested in the war-ravaged area, Won said the
troops would be sent.
"It is simple as that, and the preparations would require about three months
of time, but we have not yet received any orders," the spokesman added.
The Seoul government has so far committed fund and civilian support for
rebuilding Afghanistan. Earlier this month, it said it would spend an
addition $19 million to spend a total of $74 million by 2011 on the project.
The Lee Myung-bak administration is caught between public sentiment and
growing international pressure for Seoul to become a globally responsible
player, diplomatic sources yesterday said.
Lee has said the nation must live up to such international responsibilities.
Foreign Ministry officials yesterday said they would continue to gauge how
the public feels towards the troop dispatch.
Experts have predicted that Seoul, as a long-time ally to Washington and
beneficiary of the U.S. security umbrella, would eventually take the steps to
send a military presence to Afghanistan.
Latest figures showed that Korea's contribution to the war in the area was
only about 0.2 percent of the total amount committed.
Lee is to hold a summit with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in June, but
experts said the leaders would likely not approach the subject for fear of
Bruce Klingner, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation has suggested
that the allies would probably bid their time. He also said the best approach
would be to emphasize that Seoul was voluntarily sending the troops.
Korea in 2007 withdrew its 200-strong team of military medics and engineers
from Afghanistan. It also pulled its troops out of Iraq last year.