S. Korean troops helping to rebuild in Kurdish province
BAGHDAD — More than 2,500 South Korean troops arrived in the northeastern Kurdish province of Erbil on Saturday to take over safety, stability and civil-military operations in the region, according to coalition forces news statement.
On Sunday, military officials in South Korea elevated its terrorism alert level after the country was named by a high-ranking al-Qaida member as a target for attacks.
The South Korean Zaytun Division took over for soldiers from Multi-National Brigade Northwest in Mosul. “The arrival of soldiers from the Republic of Korea into this great nation demonstrates the strong partnership between Iraq, Korea and the coalition forces,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Farquhar, deputy commanding general of Multi-National Corps Iraq and acting commander of Task Force Olympia.
The South Koreans will work primarily on construction and repairing the area’s infrastructure.
The deployment will assist U.S. and coalition efforts to rebuild Iraq’s north. It also strengthens the 50-year military relationship between the United States and South Korea. About 37,000 U.S. servicemembers are stationed in South Korea including 3,600 from the Second Infantry Division currently deployed to the Fallujah area in Iraq.
South Korea’s parliament initially wavered on sending troops to Iraq amid public opposition. The deployment makes South Korea the third largest contributor to the coalition, after the United States and Britain, and will cost the country $200 million, according to researchers at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
South Korea was mentioned in a tape aired Friday by Al-Jazeera television in which Ayman al-Zawahiri, a deputy to Osama bin Laden, urged Muslims to carry out strikes against the United States and its allies.
According to The Associated Press, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters issued guidelines to its military organizations on Sunday calling on them to heighten security at major state and military facilities and share terrorism-related intelligence with state organizations.
U.S. personnel in South Korea are under a 9 p.m. curfew to guard against possible terror attacks or local protests as the South Korean troops moved into position in Iraq, AP reported.