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Korea scales down troop deployment to Afghanistan

South Korea has scaled down its troop deployment to Afghanistan as its civilian reconstruction team is to end its mission in the war-torn country next month, the Army said Thursday.

The number has decreased to 61 from 350, it said.

The military held a send-off ceremony for the sixth batch of troops at the International Peace Supporting Standby Force headquarters in Incheon Thursday. They are to leave for Afghanistan early next month.

“The sixth batch will work at a job training center and hospital within the Bagram Air Base (north of the capital of Kabul). They will also have the mission of guarding a Korean mission in Kabul,” said an official, declining to be named.

First dispatched in July 2010, the Korean contingent, named “Ashena,” has operated out of the base in Charikar City in the northern province of Parwan. Ashena means “friend” in a local language.

Its mission is to protect Korean civilians working as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team to help rebuild the country.

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

A series of rocket attacks near the Korean troops’ base have raised concern over their security, prompting calls for enhanced safety measures or their withdrawal.

By Song Sang-ho (