South Korea said yesterday it had sent a team to Afghanistan to pave the way for the dispatch of troops and extra aid workers to the war-torn country.
A 15-member team from various government agencies visited Kabul and Parwan Province just north of the capital over the past six days, the foreign ministry said.
Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said South Korea was considering the province as the base for its expanded aid mission, which would be protected by South Korean troops and police.
The government plans to operate an independent team of about 130 civilians and between 200 and 300 military personnel, military sources said.
Currently, 25 medical staff and job training experts work inside the US base at Bagram in the province to help a US-led team.
“For now, Parwan is thought to be the most suitable area,” Yu told reporters.
Seoul wants the mission to be approved by parliament and completed by the first half of next year, Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified senior government official as saying.
The main opposition Democratic Party said it would oppose the troop deployment.
“The situation in Afghanistan is very unstable,” spokesman Woo Sang-ho said, adding that militants attacked a South Korean company operating in the country three times since last month.
No one was hurt.
Seoul sent 210 engineering and medical troops to Afghanistan in 2002 but withdrew them in December 2007.
Taliban insurgents who took 23 South Korean church volunteers hostage in the summer of 2007 and murdered two of them had demanded that the force be pulled out — a move Seoul said was already scheduled.
South Korea, a close US ally, also sent non-combat troops to Iraq.
It withdrew them in December after four years.
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