The White House said it does not intend to pull out troops from either South Korea or Europe, as the US exit from Afghanistan calls into question the credibility of Washington’s security commitment to its allies.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Tuesday in the US made the remark when asked whether Washington would withdraw troops from its allies, including South Korea, like it has done in Afghanistan.
“So, the president, as he has said repeatedly, has no intention of drawing down our forces from South Korea or from Europe, where we have sustained troop presences for a very long time -- not in the middle of a civil war, but to deal with the potential of an external enemy and to protect our ally against the external enemy,” said Sullivan. “So, it is a fundamentally different kind of situation from the one we were presented with in Afghanistan.”
He stressed that Washington’s commitments to its allies and partners are “sacrosanct,” as they have always been.
America’s ongoing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan led to the Taliban’s takeover of the country on Sunday and the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, throwing the nation into turmoil.
US President Joe Biden, in defending his decision to pull out from Afghanistan after two decades of military involvement, said the US would no longer fight a war that is “not in our national security interest.”
Washington’s abandonment of Kabul has sparked debate here on whether South Korea could rely on the US for security -- which was born from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War -- with some calling for Seoul to secure its own defense capacity and reduce dependency on Washington.
With about 28,500 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines stationed across bases in South Korea, the US Forces Korea has been a key part of the South’s defense and its deterrence against evolving threats from North Korea for seven decades.
Rep. Song Young-gil, head of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, on Wednesday called to speed up the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control, or OPCON, from Washington to Seoul, stressing the need for self-defense.
“We need OPCON transfer to further strengthen our will and capability of self-defense in light of the Afghanistan crisis,” Song said in a Facebook post.
In his post, Song also took direct aim at Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen, who said that South Korea could collapse if the US pulls out its troops from the country, facing the same fate as Afghanistan.
“If South Korea were under this kind of sustained assault, they would collapse just as quickly without US support. There’s virtually no American ally who could defend themselves without us,” Thiessen tweeted.
In another tweet, Thiessen said if the US forces were withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula after the Korean War, the peninsula would have been quickly unified under the North’s rule. “The reason our troops are still there is because they are still needed to deter Pyongyang and prevent that outcome.”
Song slammed Thiessen’s claim, saying it is “slanderous” to compare South Korea, a nation with the world’s sixth-powerful military and 10th-largest economy, to Afghanistan.
Song then stressed that the US troop presence is critical to American national security.
“The US-Korea alliance is needed not only to deter North Korea’s provocation, but also to maintain the balance of power and peace in Northeast Asia,” he said.
“But self-defense is also critical, just as the alliance,“ he said, describing it as ”cooperative self-defense.“
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org