Hostage Release Delayed
We are relieved that the Taliban set free two female Korean hostages Sunday night, despite their temporary canceling of the plan. The Taliban said they released the aid workers out of goodwill without any conditions attached. Their freedom revived hope for expectant families of the remaining hostages and the people alike.
The Taliban's change in stance came with the purpose of securing the upper hand in future negotiations by demonstrating their will toward further talks. It is tantamount to passing the buck to the Afghan government, which holds Taliban prisoners and the masterminding U.S. government. We urge again the Taliban to let go the remaining 19 hostages immediately. Holding powerless hostages, mainly women, for the sake of their interests is contrary to the `peace loving' spirit pursued by Islam. Further, the Koreans went to the war-ravaged Afghanistan for aid and humanitarian purposes, rather than missionary tasks.
The Taliban's inappropriate act in killing two Korean men has already ignited anti-Islam sentiment all over the world and in Korea, as well. This is a tragedy for moderate Muslims who love to see peaceful co-existence irrespective of religious differences. In Korea, some 35,000 Muslims have already been put into a more difficult situation in the wake of the abduction, with bomb threats to their Mosque, for instance.
The cancelled plan to release two hostages came amid contacts between negotiators from South Korea and the Taliban. So we urge the two sides to maintain close contacts to meet halfway. But the situation seems not so easy for the Korean negotiators as the Taliban again clarified their only demand is a Taliban prisoner swap for each hostage.
This demand is beyond what the Korean side can do as the United States and Afghan government hold the key. The release of two hostages will put pressure on the Korean government to persuade the U.S. and Afghan governments to do something to meet their demands. The United States, in particular, is asked to take a more proactive approach to ensure the safe return of the hostages.
There has been concern that the hostage crisis will be a protracted one. And in the process the possible sacrifice of more lives will generate public wrath, which will hugely burden the U.S as well as the Taliban. Should the U.S. continue to maintain a lukewarm attitude and sit idly by, it is feared that it will fan anti-American sentiment among the people because they believe that only the U.S. can solve the problem.
Totally ignoring the Taliban will not help settle the matter. The U.S. tacitly approved the swapping of an Italian female journalist for five Iraqi prisoners. The U.S. started the war in Afghanistan and induced South Korea to join it. So it needs to feel a strong sense of responsibility for this recent case. Saving innocent people is more important than ideologies or principles regarding war.