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Safety measures for South Korean PRT in Afghanistan urgently required

The latest rocket attack on a newly built base for South Korean aid workers in Afghanistan calls for thorough security measures for the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) and their base.

Five rounds of rocket-propelled grenades were fired toward the base in the city of Charika in the northern Afghan province of Parwan Tuesday evening (local time). Three of them landed in an open area on the base and the other two outside of the facility, but no one was hurt in the attack.

The attack was the first of its kind that targeted a South Korean base and it came shortly after South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin visited the base earlier in the day.

It was not immediately known who was behind the attack and there was no evidence that the attack was related to the minister's visit or the opening of the base. It clearly indicated, however, the possibility of future attacks on the South Korean PRT in Afghanistan.

A total of 369 South Koreans were on the base at the time of the attack, including 57 civilian aid workers and 35 police officers who belong to the PRT, as well as 277 troops tasked with protecting the team.

South Korean PRT (Yonhap News)
South Korean PRT (Yonhap News)

Afghan police plan to visit the base Thursday for a joint probe with South Korean authorities into the latest attack.

So far, Northern Afghanistan has been considered largely safe, compared with southern strongholds of Taliban insurgents.

But an official said that the government is looking into an intelligence report that Taliban insurgents have moved to northern Afghanistan in large numbers after U.S.-led allied forces carried out intensive operations last year to drive out Taliban insurgents from their southern strongholds. "It appears that northern regions where our PRT is stationed are no longer safe places," the official said.

An intelligence report showed that Taliban insurgents could be stationed at a village nearby to the PRT base. The report, if confirmed, would mean that the base could become a target of the Taliban at any time. Therefore, thorough security measures should be taken to safeguard the PRT base and the personnel.  

Officials also worried the radius of South Korean troops' operations in the region could be expanded with the planned pull-out of U.S. troops starting in July and the transfer of the right to maintain public order from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the Afghan government. The expanded radius of operation of Korean troops will mean more chances of attacks from armed insurgents on Korean troops.

An array of contingencies should be counted in setting up security measures for South Korean troops and aid workers in Afghanistan.

(Yonhap News)
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