South Korea is considering withdrawing at least some of its troops protecting aid workers in Afghanistan starting as early as next year, government officials said Thursday.
One official said the mission for the unit, called “Ashena,”
will be over at the end of this year, and other nations are also set to withdraw their forces from the war-ravaged country.
“We’re looking into ways to pull out Ashena forces over several phases,” the official said.
Another government official said some troops will still be necessary to protect aid workers, who are collectively called the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).
“We will make the final call on the withdrawal after a further review of the local situation and other nations’ moves,” the second official said.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization plans to pull out its International Security Assistance Force based in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The South Korean PRT was launched in July 2010 and is set to stay in Afghanistan until 2014. About 100 aid workers are based in the northern Afghan city of Charikar and on the U.S. military base at Bagram to provide medical, educational and other services to local communities. South Korea has also dispatched 350 troops and 40 police officers to protect the team.
Later Thursday, the defense ministry unveiled plans to ask the parliament this year to extend missions for five overseas-based units, including Ashena.
In a report submitted to the National Assembly’s standing committee on defense, the ministry said it will seek to prolong missions for Ashena, the Cheonghae unit in Somalian waters with 306 troops, the Ahk forces of 158 soldiers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Dongmyeong unit and its 359 troops in Lebanon, and the Danbi forces with 240 soldiers in Haiti.
The ministry said the Ashena unit has carried out 379 different missions to protect PRT workers, and 1,049 air reconnaissance and airlift operations. (Yonhap News)