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JCS chairman visits overseas S. Korean troops

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Han Min-koo visited Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates to encourage three South Korean contingents operating there and off the Somali coast last Saturday through Wednesday, officials said Thursday.

On Sunday, the top military commander met with more than 300 soldiers belonging to the “Ashena” unit in Afghanistan and inspected its security conditions. Ashena means “friend” in a local language.

The unit has been deployed to Charikar City in the northern Afghan province of Parwan to protect Korean civilians working as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team to help rebuild the war-torn country.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Han Min-koo (center) visits a guard post of the Ashena unit, a South Korean contingent operating in Afghanistan, on Monday. (JCS)
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Han Min-koo (center) visits a guard post of the Ashena unit, a South Korean contingent operating in Afghanistan, on Monday. (JCS)

“The dispatch of our troops means that our country has developed from a country that received help from others to a country that helps other countries,” Han told the troops.

“I hope you do your best to protect the PRT members and enhance your operational skills in cooperation with the multinational forces operating here so that you can contribute to raising the national prestige.”

Before meeting the troops, he held talks with Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. He extended his gratitude to Petraeus for supporting South Korean troops’ operation in the country.

In Afghanistan, some 15 countries are participating in the PRT operation under the control of the ISAF which consists of troops from 46 countries.

The primary task of the PRT is to help bolster the administrative capabilities of the Afghan provincial government and stabilize the region. It also offers medical services, assistance for agricultural development, and vocational and police training.

After his two-day visit to Afghanistan, Han headed for the UAE. He met some 130 South Korean troops on Tuesday, who are deployed to the Middle East country. It was the first time for a South Korean JCS chief to officially visit the UAE.

The South Korean contingent, named the Akh Unit ― “Akh” meaning “brothers” in Arabic ― was sent to the UAE in January on a two-year mission to help train the UAE special warfare troops. Last August, the UAE made the request for the troop dispatch.

Han also visited key military bases in the UAE and met with top military commanders in the country to discuss ways to foster bilateral military exchanges and cooperation in the defense industry, officials said.

On Wednesday, Han met with and encouraged soldiers of the Cheonghae unit, which was temporarily docked at a port in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi for the change of the staff. The unit was deployed there in March last year to join in an international fight against piracy in Somali waters.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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