Families bid tearful farewells to loved ones

Afghanistan envoy returns to join presidential campaign

Afghanistan envoy returns to join presidential campaign

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Published : 2013-12-29 19:56
Updated : 2013-12-29 19:56

Afghan Ambassador to South Korea Yunos Farman explains why he must abruptly return to his country in an exclusive interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Seoul on Tuesday. (Philip Iglaue/The Korea Herald)

Afghan Ambassador to South Korea Yunos Farman abruptly left South Korea on Tuesday to join the presidential campaign of former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah as a senior aide in the war-torn country’s first ever democratic transition of power.

Farman said he felt sorry he could not properly say good-bye to his friends and colleagues here, during an exclusive interview with The Korea Herald at his office in Hannam-dong in Seoul just hours before he was to catch a flight to Kabul, adding that it was unavoidable due to the urgency of the situation.

The uncertain fate of the Basic Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the United States compelled him to return immediately, Farman said. “(President Hamid Karzai) should sign the deal before the end of the year.”

“I asked our ministry why we are taking so long to sign this agreement. I am hoping (Karzai) will sign it. Frankly speaking, I do not understand why he is not signing.”

Karzai has repeatedly said it is a matter of national sovereignty. For Farman, however, this makes no sense. “The BSA makes our sovereignty much stronger, not weaker. I do not understand (Karzai).”

Farman warned that without the U.S. military to conduct counter-terrorism operations and assist the government, Afghanistan could revert to the kind of ethnic warfare and political instability that provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The chance of Talibanism coming back into Afghanistan will be stronger without the BSA. Without the BSA, economic assistance will be jeopardized. The training of the army will be jeopardized,” he said.

Ambassador Farman has been his country’s top diplomat in Seoul since July 2011.

A highpoint of his two-and-half year posting was securing a South Korea pledge of $500 million in assistance over five years at a meeting in 2011 by the foreign ministers of the 48 countries that contribute to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. South Korea has contributed $680 million to Afghanistan, the most it has ever given to a foreign country. It provided $460 million for reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

The National Assembly’s Defense Committee voted in favor of draft legislation on Wednesday to extend to June 2014 a South Korean peace keeping mission of about 70 military personnel to protect 150 workers. The bill awaits final approval by a plenary session of the legislature.

By Philip Iglauer (ephilip2011@heraldcorp.com)

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