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Tag: Afghanistan

Korean-American killed in Afghanistan

A reader emailed me that a Sgt. Kyle McClain of Rochester Hills, Michigan was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan on Aug 1.

He was 25 years old.

I offer my condolences to his family and friends.

General McChrystal’s Comments: MacArthur, Part II?

GI Korea asks if Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s comments are “the greatest military insubordination since MacArthur?

It’s a very interesting question.

MUST READ: Korea Flexing Muscles in Afghanistan

We here at the Marmot’s Hole have been known, on occasion, to, ahem, question the scale of Korea’s contribution to the US-led war in the War on Terror, but over at The Diplomat, David Axe writes that Korea is taking a more active military role overseas, and that the Provincial Reconstruction Team being sent to Afghanistan is just a cover for a what is, in essence, indistinguishable from a US Army combat task force:

The South Korean contingent in Afghanistan illustrates Seoul’s veiled approach to a wider security role. The Korean troops, with their helicopters and armoured vehicles, form a ‘heavy’ reconstruction team that is, in fact, virtually indistinguishable from a US Army combat task force. And in fact, both the Korean PRT and a typical US task force conduct many of the same kinds of operations. After all, the Afghanistan war is a counter-insurgency campaign, where efforts to win Afghans’ allegiance drive military planning. In Afghanistan, the only important distinction between the South Koreans and the Americans is rhetorical.

Seoul is not the first government to attempt this sleight of hand in the interest of deploying forces to Afghanistan. The Dutch government deployed a similar heavy PRT to the southern part of the country soon after the US-led invasion in 2001. The Hague sold the deployment as a strictly peaceful, reconstruction exercise—never mind the jet fighters, artillery and helicopter gunships that accompanied the engineers. The rhetoric of peace was the only way to avoid a popular backlash against the operation.

The Taliban poked holes in The Hague’s cover story when hundreds of armed extremists attacked Dutch positions in Uruzgan Province in June 2007. It was one of the largest pitched battles of the year for NATO forces. Several Dutch soldiers died, while more than a hundred Afghan civilians were killed when the Dutch fired artillery and dropped bombs on heavily populated areas. In the aftermath of the fighting, elements in the Dutch government advocated cancelling the Afghanistan deployment; it took more than two years of political manoeuvring, but in February The Hague announced it would evacuate its troops this year.

Read the rest on your own.

JoongAng Columnist on Afghanistan

JoongAng Ilbo senior columnist Kim Young-hie presents some very powerful arguments for sending Korean troops to Afghanistan:

The dispatch was approved by the National Assembly. Still, many Koreans may wonder why we need to send young soldiers to the harsh terrain in South Asia when we appear to have few ties to impoverished and war-ridden Afghanistan.

We can find the answer when we think back on our June 25 civil war 60 years ago. As the unprepared South Korean army was helplessly trying to defend the Nakdong River line, sending aides of President Syngman Rhee to discuss setting up a government in exile in Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan, forces from 15 countries under the United Nations banner came to the rescue and helped to turn the tide of the war.

During the three-year war, 930,000 young men from 15 different countries fought for the lives of South Korean people and saved them from a communist takeover. To the families and countrymen of those young men, a small country in the far east of Asia would have seemed as distant and strange as Afghanistan is to us. South Korea then was a country taking baby steps as independent democratic state after a 35-year colonial rule by Japan.

Moreover, she argues, the deployment is an opportunity to train experts in the South Asian region:

But our venture in Afghanistan will end in a lost opportunity if we don’t repay old debts. We must generate greater value from our contribution. Only one out of 10 soldiers who wanted to go to Afghanistan were selected. These men together with 150 civilian aid workers of the Provincial Reconstruction Team should be encouraged to employ their expertise and language skills to become experts on the South Asian region. The gain to the country will be priceless if dozens of regional experts in diplomatic and corporate fields are born through this process.
Their eyes will be opened to an entirely new world and their hearts inspired with a pioneering and enterprising spirit. Their experience in Afghanistan and South Asia will be invaluable to them as individuals as well as the country if they can use it to seed their future.

Fair enough — you know what they say, of course, about war being God’s way of teaching Americans geography. Having regional experts — civilian and military — never hurts. But if the future they’ll be seeding is one of chasing goat herders around the the middle of Bumfuck, Afghanistan for nine years as Central Asian kleptocrats pillage your tax payers, all to fight terrorists who are just as likely (if not more so) to live in London as they do in Kabul, then best of luck to you.

National Assembly Approves Afghanistan Deployment

Guess who’s going back to Afghanistan:

The National Assembly has passed a bill to deploy troops to Afghanistan. At the parliament meeting on Thursday a majority of the ruling Grand National Party approved the bill while opposition members walked out in protest.

The bill will establish the deployment of 350 troops to support civilians and help rebuild Afghanistan, where the U.S. is still battling al Qaeda and the Taliban. The deployment will last for two years and six months starting in July until the end of 2012.

The Hani isn’t happy, of course. Would be worth reading if they had the stones to at least admit who their initial promise to withdraw was made to.

Needless to say, I’m of mixed feelings about this. On one hand, as an American, I don’t want to see my country lose a war once it’s started, and I welcome the help. It’s nice to see Korea help an ally, too, and I guess — speaking rather coldly — the experience will do the ROK military some good. That said, I really don’t see the point of the Afghan exercise anymore, and putting your guys in harm’s way to — well, I’m not exactly sure what, other than as a show of being a good ally — doesn’t really make sense to me, especially at this late stage of the game.

Bagram It Is, Then

It looks like Korea will be setting up camp at the lovely and scenic Bagram Airbase in Parwan Province, Afghanistan:

Korea is expected to set up camp at the Bagram Airbase north of the capital Kabul when it sends more personnel to support the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan on Tuesday said Parwan Province, where the main Bagram Air Base is located, “is thought to be the most suitable area” for Korea’s Provincial Reconstruction Team to be sent.

Money quote:

Koreans are likely to take over from the Americans there because the top priority is on security rather than any active military contribution to the war. “Security is the most important factor. We prefer an area where the least combat action takes place,” Yu told reporters Tuesday.

How come nobody ever says, “We prefer an area where it’s combat operations 24/7”?

I’m torn between feeling we (i.e., Americans) should be grateful to anyone who wants to deploy troops in that God-forsaken shithole (especially at this point) and miffed that if the West thinks the Afghan War is important enough to wage, it shouldn’t be only the Anglosphere and the Dutch doing the actual fighting.

Oh, and Seoul is claiming it did NOT promise the Taliban in 2007 that it wouldn’t redeploy troops to Afghanistan:

“There was no promise (to the Taliban) that South Korea would not re-deploy its troops to Afghanistan,” said the official at the Ministry of National Defense, requesting anonymity. “We’ve checked with officials involved in the 2007 negotiations with the Taliban if there was such a promise.”

In July 2007, a group of 23 Christian volunteers were kidnapped by the Taliban while traveling on a bus in Ghazni Province. The extremists killed two men in the group before freeing the others after holding the Koreans for 43 days.

South Korean negotiators under the control of the National Intelligence Service at that time reportedly offered a deal to withdraw 210 non-combatant troops from Afghanistan by that year’s end and prevent any evangelical activities in the nation by Korean churches.

My guess is the Taliban really won’t care whether there was a prior agreement or not — they’ll attack either way.

Koreans Help US Get Airbase in Uzbekistan

Let nobody say South Korea’s close ties with the Stalinist thug who runs Uzbekistan aren’t useful:

With a helping hand from South Korea, the United States has reestablished a strategic presence in Uzbekistan – sort of. The development provides a boost for US efforts to press an offensive against Islamic militants in Afghanistan, and offers evidence that Russia’s influence in Central Asia is waning.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov revealed on May 11 that a cargo airport in the city of Navoi is already being used for the airborne transport of NATO non-lethal supplies destined for coalition forces in Afghanistan. The announcement coincided with a state visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak. South Korea is overseeing a major renovation at Navoi airport that will turn the facility into a world-class air freight hub.

South Korea’s involvement in the project provides a face-saving way for the resumption of US-Uzbek strategic cooperation, capping over a year of US diplomatic efforts to bridge the rift that opened amid the fallout from the 2005 Andijan massacre. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Karimov evicted US forces from an air base in Karshi Khanabad in late 2005 as a response to US protests over his administration’s handling of the Andijan events.

The Uzbek-South Korean agreement regarding Navoi airport gives Karimov the ability to deny to Moscow that he has cut a deal with the United States. But at the same time, Washington stands to get what it needs – a transit base that can take over much of the load from the American base in Kyrgyzstan, which is scheduled to close this summer.

I’m not a huge fan of the current NATO mission in Afghanistan, so I can’t really celebrate this, per se. That said, what I think of Afghanistan doesn’t really matter — as long as the US and its NATO partners are going to prosecute this war, this is good news.

Read the rest of the article on your own.

(Big tip of the hat to Korea Economic Reader)

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