Update on the Korean Hostages.
The South Korean Stockholm Syndrome
The South Korean Stockholm Syndrome
Korean folks keep asking me again and again what I think about this, so I'll make it clear in simple terms: if you negotiate with terrorists, you give them what they want and you legitimize their actions.
You encourage more terrorist acts.
I understand the emotions that go with seeing 21 hostages threatened, but you can't give in to their demands. That is exactly the one thing you can't do.
..............I think the US had the right to enter Afghanistan to protect its national interests and security, since Al Queda had been holed up there, and as a bonus, got to depose the hated and itself illegitimate Taliban. The Taliban were and are assholes, and I didn't mind seeing them taken out of power. I don't promote mass civilian bombing, and I think the US showed considerable restraint in the Afghanistan.....................
That being said, I also don't think there's a "war on terror" – I think we have a war on criminals who are just better organized and have political goals. That's it. Terrorists don't have national borders, a religion, nor a single face. They can be anyone with a gun, a bomb, and a purpose.
And whether it's a bank robbery, embassy invasion, or taking foreign nationals hostages, you don't give them a helicopter and $10 million dollars, or a free ride out of the country, or release their prisoners from jails.
If they were unjustly imprisoned, that's another issue; but you don't release them because criminals tell you to at gunpoint.
It was a mistake to release those 5 Italians, in my opinion, although I'm happy to see them alive. Yet, perhaps that "success" on the part of other terrorists has led to 2 South Koreans dead and perhaps to the deaths of 21 more.
And the next time? Do we keep bending over to the wills of the next group of terrorists who kidnap a bus load of Swedes? A Lufthansa passenger jet? Or threaten to nerve gas a shopping mall?
Whatever – you cannot play the terrorists' game, because there is only one way to win: by taking them out, or biting the bullet. And as horrible as the latter choice seems, giving the terrorists what they want is as good as pulling the trigger for the next group with guns, who, emboldened by the previous "success" (because, from the terrorists' point of view, that's what this would be), kill more people in the future.
Seriously – the South Korean government should stop acting like a group of frightened schoolchildren and act like a responsible government, and not bend over when a group of wackos engages in terrorist threats.
And the behavior of the Korean government is and will make South Koreans even MORE of targets of opportunity for terrorists, who will now learn that taking a few South Korean hostages prisoner can exert political force over that nation. If you were a terrorist, whom would you choose – an American, Italian, or a South Korean? I'd go with the country that would be more likely to give me what I wanted.
Which is exactly the point and modus operandi of terrorism.
And which is exactly what the South Korean government is doing by even entertaining the idea of negotiating, and embarrassing itself by saying it has no power to do anything about this.
I am extremely disappointed with the reactions of the Blue House, the Korean media, as well as the majority of the Korean population, from what I've seen and heard. Of all the countries in the world that should understand the importance of taking a hard line against terrorism, it should be South Korea.
But perhaps Korea is suffering from a sort of "Stockholm syndrome" in having been held nuclear hostage by North Korea for the last couple decades, and having been coerced to give food, aid, and money without conditional attachments such as allowing aid groups such as the Red Cross to confirm that it was eveb going to the populace instead of the North Korean military and civilian elite.
South Korea has seemingly lost its will to make the tough choices anymore, and it did so a long time before these hostages were taken.
If the US won't send in Navy Seals or some other rescue operation to save these hostages (which, frankly, I don't think it's the American responsibility to do), then South Korea should.
South Korea has a military, does it not? South Korea has troops on the ground in Afghanistan, technically already placing them in this war, does it not? South Korea is a sovereign nation, able to conduct it's own foreign policy and make decisions, is it not?
Then why does the US hold ultimate responsibility for the fate of South Korean hostages?
The US's policy is clear on this issue, and always has been – and it should not stray from it's stated policy of not negotiating with terrorists. If that does not satisfy South Koreans, then South Korea should get off its ass and do something about it.
The only legitimate "influence" over the Taliban is that of lethal force, which is the only point of leverage it presently understands. If some hostages can be rescued in a military operation, I am all for that.
But the US had better not participate in the process of releasing even a single hostage under Taliban demands, because in the end, only more people will die in the future.
This should be easy to understand – and for once, South Korea, this is not a mess the US is obligated at all to clean up for you.
Instead of begging for cooperation with terrorist demands, South Korea would be better off preparing other options.
And negotiation is not an option.
The real problem here, methinks, is that South Korea has been already cooperating with terrorists for far too long, since North Korea has been holding its own people hostage for far too long, while lobbing missiles over Japan and rattling its nuclear saber, waiting for food shipments and money to arrive.
The South Korean government has become far too used to taking it, and needs to rediscover its gonads with a swiftness, because this isn't the first time hostages have been taken in this manner, and what with the pliant behavior of the South Korean government, certainly won't be the last.
Because the message South Korea is sending is: "We will bend over to terrorists, so take our foreign nationals prisoner or even engage in acts of terror in South Korea itself; because we will negotiate with you."
No matter how you cut it, that's the message being sent here.
For all my social criticism of South Korean society, this is the first time I've been utterly disappointed to the point of despair. Because this isn't how responsible governments behave. Every country has social problems, and I like studying and analyzing ones in South Korea; yet, for me, this is different.
I'm embarrassed for South Korea, in the way that I imagine a loyal South Korean citizen might. Because this doesn't bode well for the nation, for faith in the government's ability to responsibly govern, or the nation's "face" in the presence of other nations.
In the end, this is utterly embarrassing for any nation – and if the US negotiates, then I will be angry and embarrassed at the US as well.
It's time for South Korea to take responsibility for its own people, and for its place in the world. The South Korean government has some decisions to make, and it needs to make them now.
The first decision is no decision at all. South Korea cannot negotiate with these thugs. For the sake of all of its citizens everywhere, South Korea cannot give in to these demands.
All that is left are three options:
1) Try to talk these thugs into releasing the remaining hostages without giving in to any of their demands. But it's not going to happen. They have already killed two hostages; they are too heavily invested in this thing and there is no turning back for them. Under this scenario all of the hostages will die.
2) Sit by and do nothing. Watch as your people are killed one by one, wreaking untold horrific anguish on the families of the hostages, and on the psyche of an entire nation. Under this scenario all of the hostages will die.
3) Use well-calculated, pinpoint, violent, viscious force to rescue as many hostages as possible. South Korea must have trained for something like this - it must have the special forces ready, willing and able to undertake such a mission. Under this scenario, maybe some of the hostages will live. All of the thugs will die.
It's not like South Korea would be attacking another nation-state - these are a bunch of thugs, for Christ's sake. And I am sure the US would be willing to assist - after all, these are the same motherfuckers who harbored the assholes who killed 3000 of our citizens.
For the sake of its 50 million plus citizens, South Korea cannot put up with this bullshit. The message needs to be loud and clear - if you fuck with our citizens, you will die.
you guys are the kind of liberals i could grow to like
Wait – so, it's the US out of Korea, US out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Korea should be left on its own as an independent, sovereign state, right?
OK, I can buy that for a dollar, and I even agree with most of it.
Then it's America is evil this, America is evil that – general anti-American sentiment all-around. Hey – if that's your cup of tea, then go for it.
But at least be consistent to your own principles!
Saying that the US is responsible for the terrorist situation and then actually demanding that the US break from its policy of not dealing with terrorists (one of the few pieces of American foreign policy I agree with) to take care of Korean nationals, and what is essentially the responsibility of the Korean government – that just convinced me that much of the Korean left is indeed off its rocker. (HT to Lost Nomad)
Protesting in front of the American Embassy? For what? The logic is, apparently, that since the US has more "influence" over the Afghan government, which I guess, the logic goes, is supposed to have influence over...the Taliban?
If you're going to see America as the evil that begot all evil (as a good Korean extreme leftist usually does) stick to your anti-American guns, at least. Don't call America the boogeyman and not the world police (which I agree it isn't) and then expect, nay, demand to clean up YOUR mess.
What a colonized mentality it must take to even think stuff like this up.
If Korea wants to be taken seriously as a sovereign nation, in possession of a strong military and the option to use it, then act like it. Don't come making demands on another sovereign nation to change its policy on not negotiating with the bad guys just because you got some of your people in a bind this time.
If those 23 were American, I'd say the same thing. Terrorists are not to be rewarded, not to be reasoned with, lest more terrorism be encouraged. And if the Korean government wants to do something about it, then send in your own commando team and mount some sort of operation, get all Jerry Bruckheimer on 'em, whatever needs to be done.
Koreans ask me this these days: "What if it were Americans there?"
My answer would be no different: terrorists are not to be negotiated with, but taken out. Period.
Because the next time it'll be another busload of whomever, and it will just encourage anyone with a gun and an agenda to do the same to more people.
So, Korea has its F-16's and aircraft carriers and crack commando units and likes to rattle the saber and cup its nuts when Japanese fishing ships come sniffing around Tokdo, but now the country's got two dead hostages and nearly a couple more left to go, and Korea comes crying – nay, chiding the US about not changing its foreign policy to accommodate Korea's unwillingness to do anything other than talk and complain?
Incredibly disappointing, on a lot of levels.
To indulge a bit of gendered nationalistic discourse, I'd suggest that South Korea stop embarrassing itself and either takes its licks or frickin' grow a pair and do what it can as a government to save its citizens.
I want to see those people come out alive, too, but this isn't America's responsibility, nor should the US alter its policy of not negotiating with evil people who want us to do exactly this. This gives power and validity to the terrorists' actions. Negotiate now, and how many more will die?
Seriously – it's time to act like a responsible, sovereign nation and not a simpering, dependent colony. This is just plain, frickin' embarrassing. 사대주의 is a bitch, innit?
Chung Dong Yong sends letter to Pres. Bush
It seems like every political figure is jumping on the “Let’s pressure the US” bandwagon. The latest figure to weigh in is former Unification Minister Chung Dong Young.
According to Financial News, Mr. Chung has sent an open letter to Pres. George W. Bush via the US Embassy in Seoul.
Here is the English translation;
If the 23 (now 21) hostages were American and not Korean, we ask what would the US have done in this situation. Koreans believe that since this crisis is a part of the War on Terror, the US is the main party and not a third party. We appeal to the US to think of the hostages as Americans and take specific measures to solve this crisis.
We respect that there is a “seen principle” among nations that they should not negotiate with terrorists, but there is also an “unseen principle”. We remember the case where an American female journalist was released in exchange for five Iraqi female prisoners, which means there is a recognition that there is an exemption to the non negotiating principle.
Saving a life is more important than one’s obligations and profit. If Pres. Bush was to step forward and save the hostages, then people around the world will continue praising you for your determination, leadership, management, and love.
Well let’s just say the contents of the above letter is not that surprising, if you take into account the author. I wonder how Pres. Bush will react when he reads the above letter.
Gov’t Begs International Community to Use ‘Flexibility’ to Save Hostages
Cheong Wa Dae has issued a statement essentially begging the international community (read: the United States) to give in to the Taliban’s demands in order to save the remaining 21 Korean hostages being held in Afghanistan.
Given the nature of the statement, Cheong Wa Dae was quick to translate it, freeing me from the burden of doing it.
Another Korean held hostage in Afghanistan was killed last night. The Korean Government is saddened by this tragic news and offers its deepest condolences to the bereaved family.
The kidnappers are demanding the release of prisoners in Afghan jails in exchange for Korean nationals. But this demand is not within the power of the Korean Government because it doesn’t have any effective means to influence decisions of the Afghan Government.
The Korean Government strongly condemns and urges an immediate end to these heinous acts of killing innocent people in order to press for demands that it can’t meet.
The Korean hostages are not prisoners or criminals. They are civilians who went to Afghanistan for humanitarian work. Kidnapping and killing innocent people can’t be justified for any cause.
The Government is well aware of how the international community deals with these kinds of abduction cases. But it also believes that it would be worthwhile to use flexibility in the cause of saving the precious lives of those still in captivity and is appealing the international community to do so.
Two Koreans have been slain. Despite that, the Government will continue to do all it can to secure the safe and speedy release of the remaining Korean hostages. But the Government makes it clear that it will not tolerate any further acts of harming innocent Koreans and intends to hold the perpetrators responsible.
OK, let me be clear on a couple of things. I appreciate that the Korean government’s first responsibility is to protect its own citizens. And while in principle I’m against negotiating with terrorists, I do recognize that deals sometimes get done. I understand this.
But the key point in the Cheong Wa Dae statement is “this demand is not within the power of the Korean Government because it doesn’t have any effective means to influence decisions of the Afghan Government.” And why doesn’t it have any effective means to influence decisions of the Afghan Government? Because it hasn’t paid for it, either in blood or treasure. And as far as I know, it hasn’t offered any blood (i.e., combat troops) or treasure (i.e., serious amounts of green). If it has, clearly, it isn’t enough.
If you want to make deals with the Taliban, fine. I can even see Seoul privately urging the Americans to put pressure on Kabul, preferably with assurances that Seoul would make it worth Washington’s while.
But issuing a public statement begging the international community to make a deal? Whose idea was that?
Later, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Cheon Ho-seon explained the statment. He noted that as far as the issue of the Taliban prisoner release was concerned, the role of the Afghan government was most important (duh). He said Korea understands the difficulties of the Afghan government, but it was asking for Kabul to handle the situation more flexibly and more actively. He also said Seoul doesn’t believe that the United States has the independent authority to resolve the problem. He said cooperation with the United States was necessary since it was an interested party, but Washington hasn’t been “intentionally” refusing to cooperate or underestimating the situation.
Internet media eDaily (linked above) said Seoul’s refusal to ask Washington for help appears to be because either a) high-level discussions with Washington wouldn’t help resolve the crisis; or b) if such cooperation were to become known to the Taliban, it might hurt Seoul’s efforts.
Yonhap also noted the statement was an indirect yet strongly worded call for a change in Afghan and US government attitudes.
According to Yonhap, President Roh yesterday directed the government to strengthen “multi-sided efforts” to free the hostages. A government officials explained that “multi-sided efforts” meant strengthening cooperation with the United States.
Yonhap’s take on the statement:
The government statement could be seen as comprehensively containing a message that condemns the Taliban’s murder of civilians, but at the same time says that in order to prevent further fatalities, the Afghan government should turn course and accept the Taliban’s demand that their prisoners be swapped for the Korean hostages, and for this, the role of the United States, which exercises influence on the Afghan government, is most important.
Does anybody want to argue that Seoul isn’t setting Washington up to be the bad guy now?
The families said they intend to meet with the US ambassador to convey their hopes. An elderly relative even brought up the Korea-US alliance during the Korean War in asking for help. He apparently didn’t get the memos on “independent defense” and “the Northeast Asian balancer.” It also appears he didn’t get the memo explaining how the most our “ally” could scrounge up when we needed them most — namely, after the Taliban’s friends al-Qaeda slaughtered 3,000 Americans in the United States — was 200 non-combat troops, and this was even after Kim Dae-jung pledged support for the United States “in the spirit” of the Korea-US Mutual Defense Pact.
How do you like this?
Paik Jin Hyun, an associate dean at the Graduate School of International Studies of Seoul National University, said that if the hostage crisis did not conclude satisfactorily, anti-U.S. groups in South Korea might use it to promote anti-American sentiments in South Korea.
Oh no! Not anti-American sentiments!
On Tuesday, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a major civic group based in Seoul, issued a statement accusing Washington of watching the hostage crisis “as if it were a fire across the river.”
“A fire across the river”… a Korean expression you should have learned when you read it in the Hankyoreh last week.
“As everyone knows, the Taliban’s demand is something the U.S. government can help resolve, not the Afghan or South Korean government,” it said. “The South Korean government, citing its alliance with the United States, dispatched troops for the U.S. war against terrorism.”
“Now why can’t it use the spirit of the alliance to help persuade the U.S. administration and save its own people?” it added.
Ooo, there’s that “spirit of the alliance” talk again. Well, how ’bouts this — Washington try to bribe Karzai into releasing the prisoners with… a goat.
Heck, two goats!
That way we can show the same kind of respect for the “spirit of the alliance” as DJ did in 2001.
During a regular press briefing, the US State Department made its position clear.
MR. CASEY: Take me all the way back to the gaggle, which you missed.
QUESTION: Which I missed, yes. I — just on the South Koreans in Afghanistan, is it — it remains U.S. policy not to negotiate with –
MR. CASEY: It remains U.S. policy not to make concessions to terrorists, yeah.
QUESTION: Not to make concessions.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, what about to negotiate?
MR. CASEY: Again, the policy as written over the past 20 years or so is to not make concessions to terrorists and that remains our view.
QUESTION: Are you aware of this — of growing — apparently growing sentiment in South Korea for the United States to actually — to change that on this — in that instance or to make an exception?
MR. CASEY: I’m not aware that there’s been any discussion of that, Matt. But again, you know, our views on this are well-known. We certainly have great sympathy for South Korea and for the people that are involved in this incident. This is a terrible incident. They should be let go. We want to see them let go as soon as possible. We’re certainly keeping in close touch with the Government of South Korea, as well as with the Afghan Government and, you know, coordinating to the extent that we can. But in this instance, the burden, just like in other hostage taking instances, is on those who’ve done this and the Taliban to release them and to let them go. But again, I think U.S. policy, again is longstanding. It’s been there for many, many years and I don’t see any indication that we’re going to be changing that any time soon.
In its report on this, Korean online media Newsis mistranslated the statement to read that the US thinks acting would be a burden. Or as the headline (at least at Naver.com) reads, “US State Department: We Sympathize with the Hostage Tragedy, But It’s Very Burdensome.” The headline was changed to “US: We Sympathize with the Hostage Tragedy, But We Can’t Concede” at the official Newsis site, but the mistranslation still stands. If you’re reading this at the US Embassy, I’d make a phone call to Newsis at 02-721-7400.
One commenter at Naver.com did say a funny, though. “The difference between the reporter (who asked the questions during the briefing) and the State Department spokesman is that the reporter reads Korean newspapers only, while the State Department has looked at the responses on the Korean Internet.”
The Roh Moo Hyun government is (as usual) shamefully useless, but I hope — perhaps unreasonably — that the successor clique might re-evaluate how Korea’s own policy choices may enhance or diminish the influence Seoul has with foreign governments including not only Crapistan but also the United States, China, and Japan. It’s not good to have no influence.
Protection of Korean citizens is not the responsibility of the United States nor of the “international community”. It’s Roh Moo Hyun’s. It’s Korea’s responsibility.
Failure to have made investments in things which would enhance Korea’s influence — whether foreign aid programs, friendship festivals, diplomats who can actually speak foreign languages, friendly relations with the United States (I bet Uncle Sucker would send Marines to hose down the Taliban kidnappers and rescue British hostages if asked — why is that?) or battalions of deployable troops to rescue Korean hostages — these things are Korea’s fault alone.
And in my opinion, Roh’s response to this Taliban kidnapping makes things much worse for Koreans abroad. There is now a huge target on the forehead of these people: Grab a Korean, and they will do anything to reward you for it — and you don’t have to fear retribution because their government is powerless and they have no friends either. Fantastic job, Roh!
masanf your flag
Every time I turn around I read about Koreans blasting the United States, whether it be throwing shit on American beef or surveys claiming that North Korea is less dangerous than the United States and idiots trying to take down McArthur’s statue or the nation working itself into an absolute frenzy over the regrettable accidental death of girls from Army vehicles; for Christ sake, the Koreans were calling for American blood over a f*cking ice-skating medal. One jackass even went so far as to write a hit song about it.
But, now that they need help, they naturally turn to the United States. The US government should tell them to do you-know-what to themselves. They are reaping what they have sown.
We May Prolong the Crisis
Aug. 1, 2007 - Taliban Subcommander Abdullah was on the lookout for hostages. Ever since his superior, Commander Daro Khan, was arrested by U.S. forces in Ghazni province's Qarabagh district in June, Abdullah has had his men patrolling the main Kabul-to-Kandahar highway that runs through the province, watching for foreigners to kidnap. The goal: to exchange the prisoners for Khan and other Taliban operatives in Afghan and U.S. custody.
On July 19, Abdullah’s men got lucky. A pair on motorcycle patrol spotted a large, white passenger bus, traveling with no armed security escort. The fighters immediately pulled their motorcycles alongside the bus and pointed an AK-47 and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher directly at the bus driver's head. Rather than speeding up and trying to outrun the gunmen, the driver stopped and the 23 South Korean Christian aid workers riding on the bus were trapped.
The gunmen, who were communicating with Abdullah by walkie-talkie and cell phones, quickly ordered the bus driver to drive off the highway and into a nearby village that is located in the region's flat, desert-like and rocky plain. The gunmen ordered their hostages out of the bus and quickly began dividing them into small groups. Knowing that the Taliban and the prisoners would be vulnerable if they stayed together, Abdullah's and other Taliban units that quickly rushed to the scene divided the 23 South Koreans into five groups and transported them on the back of motorcycles and in pickup trucks to widely dispersed locations. Some were kept in Qarabagh; others were taken to neighboring Andar district, which is the Taliban's stronghold in Ghazni, while others were transported to Dahyak district that is only a few kilometers outside Ghazni city. Then the hostage takers started issuing their demands.
NEWSWEEK was able to piece together this exclusive look at how the South Koreans were captured and where they have been taken through satellite telephone conversations with several Taliban commanders involved in the hostage-taking operation. According to a senior provincial commander who does not want to be named, the Taliban almost immediately issued their demands to the Afghan government that the 23 South Korean hostages would be released in a swap for 115 Taliban prisoners in a five-to-one exchange. As the negotiations with the Afghan government dragged on, the commander says he reduced his demands to an even exchange of 23 Taliban prisoners for the South Koreans. Now he says he will exchange the hostages for eight prisoners whose names he has delivered to Kabul government officials. According to the commander, Afghan officials have been delaying the negotiations by telling him that the Afghan government is not holding all the men, that some are being held at the U.S. base at Bagram, near Kabul, and that Washington won't agree to release its prisoners.
Apparently frustrated by the delay, the missed deadlines and the extended negotiations—or perhaps just out of sheer cruelty—the Taliban has already shot two South Korean men execution-style and dumped their bloodied bodies by the roadside. However, a Wednesday deadline for the lives of the remaining 21 hostages seems to have passed without any further deaths. The senior commander who spoke to NEWSWEEK accuses Kabul of stalling the negotiations in the hope that the deaths of all the prisoners will end the stalemate. "The Afghan government is intentionally pushing us to kill all hostages one at a time so they can wind up the crisis," says the commander.
The Afghan government rejects such claims, saying that it is negotiating in good faith. It also seems to be trying to step up the pressure even as it denied media reports that it was about to launch a rescue attempt. The Taliban official told NEWSWEEK Wednesday that the Afghan Army and police, supported by U.S. forces, had moved into the Andar district—and that the kidnappers had moved three of the hostages to the province of Paktika, on Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.
The impasse has placed Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an almost impossible predicament. Last March, facing a similar dilemma and under heavy pressure from Italy, Karzai ordered the release of five senior Taliban officials in exchange for an Italian journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, who had been abducted along with his Afghan driver and interpreter. The Taliban executed the two Afghans, and Karzai's European and U.S. allies widely criticized his humanitarian gesture. One of the freed Taliban commanders, Mansor Dadullah, is now directing suicide bombings and other attacks against Afghan and American forces from his redoubt on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Not surprisingly, Karzai is under intense pressure not to give in again. But the South Korean government is pleading with him and the U.S. to "use flexibility" in dealing with the Taliban's demands. Seoul and the Korean public clearly favor a deal. But this time Karzai seems to be siding with his allies in the belief that striking such an agreement would only encourage more Taliban abductions, turning kidnapping into a Taliban growth industry. "I think as a principle we shouldn't encourage kidnapping by accepting their demand," says the president's spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada.
The Taliban, however, clearly sees advantages in the tactic. In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 news last month, Dadullah called kidnapping "a very successful policy." The insurgents have certainly been actively engaged in it. Besides the Koreans, the Taliban have kidnapped at least 41 Afghan civilians and killed at least 23 of them, while 18 remain missing, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called the Taliban's kidnapping policy a "war crime." Another Taliban group is still holding a German hostage in Wardak province, just north of Kabul, after having executed his German co-worker last week. When Abdullah's group first heard of the kidnapping of the two Germans, it contacted the hostage takers in Wardak hoping that that insurgent group would try to get commander Daro Khan freed in exchange for the Germans. But the Taliban unit holding the Germans refused to cooperate.
The surviving South Koreans, 16 women and five men, are said to be in failing health, largely suffering from dehydration and intestinal disorders. A short video clip broadcast on the Arab TV network Al Jazeera this week showed seven forlorn female hostages, their hair covered by Islamic veils, looking both ill and frightened. One Taliban source told NEWSWEEK that at least one woman is extremely ill.
For now, though, the chances of a breakthrough seem slim. Indeed, the negotiations seem to be marked by confusion. The senior Taliban commander tells NEWSWEEK that a newly arrived South Korean envoy, a Ghazni member of parliament and some government negotiators, may have been talking to a bogus Taliban group that was posing as the kidnappers and has demanded and received some money. There is no way to verify the claim of the commander, who has provided reliable information to NEWSWEEK in the past. But he insists that he has never asked for any money, and is only interested in an exchange of the hostages for Taliban prisoners.
The commander adds that despite the hostages' health problems he is in no hurry to strike a deal unless his demands for the release of at least eight Taliban prisoners are met. "We may sustain, even prolong, the crisis for a while as it's embarrassing for Karzai's regime and keeps it under pressure," he told NEWSWEEK. He admitted that he is under some pressure from local elders who may have objected to him taking hostages, especially women. Karzai has denounced the kidnapping of women as "un-Islamic." "We are also under pressure because of local customs and traditions," the commander admits. But local sentiment is unlikely to lead to a resolution of the crisis.
The commander says that at least the women could be out of harm's way for the time being. "I think we will not decide [the] fate of the women in a hurry," he says. He even hints the negotiations could be out of his hands. "My opinion is not the final word," he adds. He says the Taliban Supreme Council, headed by the Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, is now involved in the negotiations. One of Mullah Omar's representatives, Hajji Hassan, is advising the Taliban's provincial leaders in Ghazni in their talks with the government.
The commander also warns against any Afghan and U.S. military operation to free the hostages. He says that his forces are in control of most of the province's countryside and that any military assault "will end in failure." One sub-commander named Haji Nur says that an Afghan Army force backed by helicopters attacked a village on the border between Qarabagh and Shelghari districts at 1 a.m. earlier this week. The troops, he says, didn't find any hostages and then proceeded to hand out leaflets urging the villagers not to cooperate with the Taliban.
These kidnappings that are occurring not far from Kabul are just another sign of how insecure Afghanistan has become over the past two years, despite a dramatically increased NATO and U.S. military presence of some 50,000 troops. Not only are abductions a constant danger, so are the roadside bombs known as IEDs and suicide bombers, who have even struck inside Kabul. This insecurity, especially the kidnappings, is further hindering the delivery of aid and reconstruction assistance to the eastern and southern provinces. Among the recent kidnapping victims is a four-man Afghan medical team that was abducted on Monday.
Most foreign-aid workers and U.N. officials have already adopted precautionary travel measures. They travel less frequently into the countryside and, if they do, are usually accompanied by an armed escort. The Afghan Ministry of Interior has advised all foreigners traveling outside Kabul to inform it of their travel plans so it can either advise of the dangers or arrange a security escort. Certainly, Afghan roads have seldom been more hazardous.
No Use Staring at the U.S. in Hostage Crisis
With the hostage crisis in Afghanistan dragging on while the number of casualties rises, certain groups in Korea have begun to shift the blame on the United States. One group opposed to the dispatch of Korean troops overseas has held a candle-lit vigil saying the U.S. caused this tragedy, while the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy issued a statement saying the negligence of the U.S. government was the reason behind the lack of progress in negotiations. Certain news media are starting to take that perspective, and the Uri Party hopped on the bandwagon.
It is difficult to believe Washington will be completely open to the idea of freeing Taliban prisoners. The U.S. government has refused to deal with terrorists even when its own citizens were taken hostage. There may be exceptions, but in Iraq alone, six American hostages were killed after the U.S. government refused to negotiate with terrorists. At present, the fate of 10 American hostages remains unclear. U.S. government officials say if this principle is compromised, then terrorism may spread like wildfire around the world.
Even though that may be Washington’s position, this crisis cannot end simply with a decision by Washington. The government of Afghanistan may rely on the U.S., but the people of Afghanistan are fighting against the Taliban since their own livelihoods depend on winning that fight. The government of Afghanistan freed Taliban prisoners in exchange for an Italian journalist and the Taliban have reportedly learned the value of such tactics. If such incidents are repeated, the government of Afghanistan is afraid its stability may collapse and their very lives come under threat.
The Cheong Wa Dae spokesman, who is briefed on relevant information, said Seoul does not think Washington has independent authority. He said it was wrong to think the U.S. held all of the cards. He added the U.S. was cooperating very closely with Korea in the areas of diplomacy, military and other information.
The goal of the Taliban is to dump all of the responsibility on the U.S. government. The fueling of anti-American sentiment by certain groups in Korea will only play into the taliban’s hands and justify their atrocities. As Mehra Juddin Patan, the governor of Ghazni Province said, the U.S. is in a dilemma too, because the Koreans had come to a country where they shouldn’t be.
The more anti-American groups demand the participation of the U.S. in the hostage negotiations, the more they are trapping Korea within Washington's policy of not making concessions to terrorists. The floor leaders of Korea’s five main political parties are seeking to visit Washington D.C. to call for U.S. participation in the hostage negotiation process. But there is a strong possibility that this trip may end up being a political show to get more votes during the presidential election in December.
As the situation grows more serious, efforts by certain groups to use it to fan anti-American hatred will only intensify. Already, those groups may be planning a second version of the mass rallies that happened after the deaths of Shim Mi-sun and Shin Hyo-soon, two schoolgirls who were killed by a U.S. armored vehicle here. The public must be able to distinguish between those who truly want to save the lives of the young Koreans and who are simply trying to capitalize on the suffering.
Can anyone tell me WTF this is all about? These people need to be in front of the Blue House protesting because it’s their own prez who’s doing an imitation of a spineless jellyfish. Whatever happened to that self reliance and having more independence from U.S. influence? And as for this statement from Cheong Wa Dae:
“Two Koreans have been slain. Despite that, the government will continue to do all it can to secure the safe and speedy release of the remaining Korean hostages. But the government makes it clear that it will not tolerate any further acts of harming innocent Koreans and hold the perpetrators responsible.” However, Cheon stressed that the Seoul government remains unchanged in its opposition to any military operation meant to rescue the hostages, saying that dialogue should not be given up until the last moment.
I hate to break it to you but “the last moment” has already come and passed for two of your people. Please tell us what your definition of “the last moment” is because I sure would love to know and I bet so would the families of the hostages. Sometimes, money isn’t the answer to the problem. It may be time to kick some ass and talk about it afterwards.