South Korea approves troop dispatch to Afghanistan   2010-02-25 18:08:35 FeedbackPrintRSS

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- South Korea will send its forces to Afghanistan this year as the parliament on Thursday passed a bill approving the dispatch of troops to the war-torn Central Asian country.

The bill, passed in a 148-5 vote with 10 abstentions, approves the government plan to send 350 troops at most to the Parwan Province, north of Kabul, where South Korean troops will be stationed to primarily protect the South Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

The South Korean government said the troop dispatch will last two-and-a-half years from July 1, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012, reiterating the main mission of the troops will be to guard the PRT base and escort and protect the activities of the PRT members.

The decision came amid much controversy as the Taliban, Afghanistan's rebel militant group, issued a warning to South Korea last December saying Seoul must be ready to face "bad consequences" if the troops are deployed.

"They (South Korea) should also be prepared for any bad consequences, as the Taliban will never resort to a soft approach anymore," the Afghan insurgents said in a statement last December.

South Korean troops withdrew from Afghanistan after a five-year deployment in 2007 when 23 of its Christian missionaries were held captive by the Taliban, of which two were killed and the rest released.

Since the pull out, South Korea has provided only medical and vocational training by assisting the United States, and only two dozen of its volunteers work inside the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram, north of Kabul.

But following U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Seoul last October, the South Korean government said it is considering another troop dispatch to Afghanistan to more actively participate in the international efforts for supporting the stabilization and reconstruction operations of the war-ravaged country.

Editor: Li Xianzhi
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