Thursday, July 26, 2007


Yonhap: Kabul Won’t Budge Because of West

Now even Yonhap is setting the United States up to take the blame if the hostages in Afghanistan get killed.

In an analysis report, Yonhap — citing experts — says Kabul is ignoring the Taliban’s demands because it doesn’t want to offend the West, including the United States and Great Britain.

It notes that more than 90% of the Afghan budget is provided by foreign aid, especially from the United States, and that the Karzai government cannot act freely of US influence because it’s protected by NATO.

Yonhap ends by saying most analysts say negotiations to free the hostages depend on how effectively Seoul persuades Kabul to act and how effectively it secures the cooperation of the Western nations.

Of course, what Yonhap doesn’t say is that, perhaps, Kabul is ignoring the Taliban’s demands because a) it doesn’t want to turn kidnapping into a lucrative business, and more to the point b) Korea’s contribution to the fight against the Taliban has been next to nil, and its 200 non-combat troops will be withdrawn by the end of the year anyway. Kabul has absolutely no reason whatsoever to free enemies of the state who, upon their release, will go about attacking schools, hospitals and other infrastructure, killing Afghan civilians and attacking both its troops and the troops of allied states, all to rescue a bunch of highly irresponsible individuals who should have never been in the country in the first place and were probably engaged in activities even the Karzai government deems illegal. When Kabul freed five Taliban terrorists to save an Italian journalist earlier this year, it didn’t do it out of the kindness of either Karzai’s or Bush’s heart — it did it because Italy threatened to pull out its 2,000 troops. Influence is earned, and Seoul — so sorry — hasn’t earned any.

Rather than pinning this all on the West (read: the United States), what really needs to be asked is a) should we (Koreans) even be trying to negotiate with the Taliban, and b) if we do choose to negotiate, what can we do to earn the necessary influence with the Karzai government. Seoul needs to be showing Karzai the green and/or promising to send combat troops, not pestering Washington or NATO to lean on Kabul. And if the media thinks it can get the government to adopt a strategy of threatening Washington with increased anti-Americanism if it doesn’t get Karzai to do what Seoul wants, Yonhap, the JoongAng Ilbo and Hankyoreh (just to mention the ones I’ve read) had better recognize — this is a war against an organization that aided and abetted in the slaughter of 3,000 innocent Americans in our own damn country, and if you think we (Americans) are going to help said organization because the Korean embassy in Washington threatens us with “Fucking USA,” you’re sorely mistaken, my friends.

UPDATE: More bitching courtesy Yonhap, this time about Korea’s burdensome position “sandwiched” between Kabul and the Taliban. Yonhap quotes an Afghan source as saying that although the Korean government wants to accept the Taliban’s demands, Kabul — which actually has the authority to release the prisoners — is steadfastly refusing. Later, it quotes Al Jazeera, which reported today that the reason Kabul is refusing is “because it was greatly criticized by the United States” when it swapped Taliban prisoners for an Italian hostage in March.

And then there’s this classic from Yonhap — apparently, the Bush administration finds itself in a “dilemma,” namely, that the kidnapping might cause a rift in the Korea-US alliance and heighten anti-war sentiment in the United States. It also claimed that at a “sensitive time” right before presidential elections in both countries, the White House is on guard against the kidnapping becoming a political issue. A Washington source said Bush was caught between US policy of not negotiating with terrorists and assistance requests from its ally, Korea. Yonhap also noted that if the US appears to be helping Korea, it could make the situation worse and heighten anti-war sentiment in the United States. However, one official said that if the United States refuses to help, it could once again ignite anti-American sentiment in South Korea ahead of the Korean presidential election.

NOTE TO YONHAP — It’s not the United States that’s caught in a dilemma. You are. The US will (or at least should) do exactly what it did with the Italians — not a God-damned thing (unless Seoul asks for a rescue operation). You, on the other hand, are now faced with a choice — you can now either stick firm to the principle of not negotiating with terrorists and let your hostages die, or pay an extravagant amount of money — both in ransom to the Taliban and to buy influence with the Afghan government — AND piss off the United States, Great Britain, Germany and just about every other NATO member with troops in Afghanistan (save for, perhaps, the Italians) to rescue your guys. Have fun.

UPDATE 2: Cheong Wa Dae has issued a statement expressing regret about the press — the foreign press, that is! During a regular briefing, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Chun Ho-sun said that the foreign press was indiscriminately releasing unconfirmed reports that did not take into account that they could play into the kidnapper’s plans, and that the presidential office couldn’t help but express regret over these reports.

A Cheong Wa Dae official said the statement was made because the foreign press reports, quoting local Afghan sources, were amplifying confusion.

Chun also asked local media to be careful about what they report, saying the situation was one which lives hanged in the balance. In particular, Chun said media speculation about a memo written by Foreign Minister Song Min-soon — photos of which made it on the air — mustn’t negatively influence the hostages’ situation.


One may argue about the wisdom of giving money to the Taliban now, but overall, Seoul should be more concerned about their own people in distress, instead of western governments and besides, S.Korea is not in the Talibans’ line of fire so no worries for Korea about terrorists attacking by using the money Seoul gave them.
Harsh as it may sound, that should be Seouls’ position.

Fair enough. I guess it could also be argued — along similar lines — that since Seoul seems intent to pay ransom that very well may be used to kill Americans (seeing how it, unlike Korea, is in the “line of fire”), the United States should launch a rescue attempt to free the hostages before said ransom is paid. Sure, the hostages could get killed and heighten anti-Americanism in Seoul, but Washington should be more concerned with protecting its own citizens — including its soldiers in the field — rather than the Korean government.

Harsh as it may sound, that should be Washington’s position.


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