The Korea Herald


Attacks may hamper Afghan PRT work

By Song Sangho

Published : May 17, 2011 - 18:41

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Officials put more weight on possibility of Taliban role in shelling of Korean base

Relentless rocket attacks on a base for South Korean aid workers and troops in Afghanistan are expected to hamper operations to help rebuild the war-torn country amid growing public angst here over their safety.

This month alone, there were three attacks apparently targeting the base in Charikar City in the northern Afghan province of Parwan. A total of eight attacks have occurred near or inside the base since the first shelling on Jan. 20.

Coming after U.S. Navy commandos shot to death Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida, on May 1, the recent attacks have deepened public concerns that South Koreans could become a target of international terrorism.

Government officials here are apparently unnerved by the recent spate of attacks with some people calling for the early pullout of South Koreans from Afghanistan. Amid the ongoing investigation into the cases, they appear to be putting more weight on the possibility that of the attacks were carried out by the Islamic militant Taliban group.

“When the attacks occurred, we initially looked into the possibility of a disgruntled local security company launching the attacks after they failed to win a security contract with South Korea,” said a government official in a media interview.

“We took some measures to address this issue with the firm, but the attacks have not stopped. We are now investigating the possibility that the Taliban forces could be responsible for the attacks.”

More than 300 South Korean troops have been deployed to Charikar City to protect Korean civilians working there as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team to help reestablish the country. About 90 South Korean aid workers and police officers are operating in the PRT there.

Some experts have pointed out that international terrorist groups could target South Korea given its six-decade alliance with the U.S. that has spearheaded the war on terrorism since the massive terror attack on its soil on Sept. 11, 2001.

Some others also noted the possibility that after the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces carried out massive crackdowns on terrorists in their strongholds in the southern part of the country, many have moved to the northern part where South Koreans are operating.

Some also criticized the government for not taking proper measures to ensure the safety of South Koreans at the base even after the two attacks that occurred near construction sites for a South Korean firm last December were found to have been carried out by the Taliban.

As it is extremely difficult to ascertain the origin of the rocket attacks, it is tough to find measures to prevent them, officials said.

“We are trying to craft plans to protect the PRT facilities on our own. For the PRT to smoothly operate without concerns over additional rocket attacks, the security situations in the province should stabilize. So it is frustrating,” said a government official.

Some civic groups have begun calling for the troop withdrawal.

“Our government should clearly evaluate and reflect on the 10 years of the war on terrorism and our dispatch there. That work can start with the withdrawal of the PRT in Afghanistan,” said People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, the country’s major activist group, in its recent commentary.

By law, South Korean troops and aid workers, who were dispatched to Afghanistan last July, are to operate until December next year. Without parliamentary approval for the extension of the service period, they should withdraw by that time.

In Afghanistan, some 15 countries are participating in the PRT operation under the protection of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which consists of troops from 46 countries.

The primary task of the PRT is to help bolster the administrative capabilities of the Afghan provincial government and stabilize the region. It also offers medical services, assistance for agricultural development, and vocational and police training.

By Song Sang-ho (