S. Korea to withdraw remaining troops from Iraq

September 20, 2008 - 0:0

SEOUL (AP) -- South Korea will completely withdraw its remaining troops from Iraq by December, ending five years of military deployment aimed at helping to rebuild the war-torn country, an official said Friday.

Since 2003, South Korea has stationed troops in Iraq for a reconstruction mission at the request of the United States, its key ally. Troops levels once reached 3,600, but Seoul gradually has pulled out soldiers amid opposition to the deployment at home.
About 520 South Korean army engineers and medics are now stationed in Iraq, and 130 other support personnel -- mostly airmen -- are in Kuwait.
Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae told reporters Friday that all 650 soldiers will return home by the end of this year.
The South Korean government pledged last year to withdraw troops but decided to extend the deployment by another year at Washington's request.
However, a Defense Ministry official said there is “little chance” of South Korea extending the tour again.
“There is no more need for us to stay there,” he said, adding that the U.S. has not requested another South Korean troop extension. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The troop dispatch has divided the South Koreans. Some say it will help strengthen ties with the U.S. while others argue the country should not join an unjustified U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea to help deter possible aggression from North Korea.