The World From Berlin Playing into Taliban's Hands

The kidnappping of South Korean and German hostages has created a dilemma for Afghanistan and the West. Should governments negotiate with kidnappers? German commentators on Friday also ask what Korean Christian relief workers were doing traveling without adequate security.

Taliban insurgents on Monday killed the second of 23 South Korean Christian religious aid workers kidnapped in Afghanistan on July 19. Former IT worker Shim Sung-min was found dead next to a road in the Andar district, apparently killed by a gunshot wound to the head. The rebels killed another member of the group, Pastor Bae Hyung-Kyu, last Wednesday. The kidnappers seized the South Koreans as they traveled by mini bus between Kabul and Kandahar. The Taliban are demanding the release of 23 Taliban prisoners and are threatening to kill all of the hostages if their demands are not met.

The death of the second Korean hostage comes at a time when Germans are also fearing for the well-being of 62-year-old engineer Rudolf B., who is currently being held by kidnappers demanding the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan. Arab news station Al-Jazeera aired a video of Rudolf B. on Tuesday evening, and negotiations with his kidnappers are continuing.

German media commentators are divided on whether or not such negotiations are politically wise. Answers to the question of how far Western governments should go in appeasing kidnappers range from making ransom payments a permanent budget item to rejecting negotiations entirely. The papers are also asking why Christian aid workers were traveling through Afghanistan without adequate security?

The center-right Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"As cruel as the consequences for the hostages may be, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is acting correctly by refusing to yield to the demands of the kidnappers. If he gives in to the kidnappers, he will endanger the entire reconstruction process in Afghanistan."

"Toughness is the device that promises success in dealing with politically motivated kidnappers. That holds true in general -- and also in the case of the German who is still being held hostage. And it is especially true in the case of the Korean development workers. This group is so large that giving in would have a devastating symbolic effect: It would be equivalent to an admission from Karzai that he had abandoned the development of any form of statehood in southern Afghanistan and that these provinces will for a long time remain regions of lawlessness. And it would be an obvious invitation to carry out further kidnappings."

"The goal must be to make the instrument of kidnappings unattractive to the Taliban. One comes closer to reaching this goal if their demands remain unfulfilled. Even if they carry out their threat and kill South Korean hostages again."

Left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

"During times when one fears for the life, liberty or well-being of hostages or when they are found murdered, one does not think of future kidnappings. And if they get released, other issues take the center stage. But Germany and all other countries whose citizens spend time in conflict areas as helpers, soldiers, journalists or even tourists have to expect new kidnappings at any time. These citizens will not all be told they should return home, nor will that be possible. And so Western governments must make ransom payments a permanent item in their annual budget plans."

"Of course they deserve our sympathies, though that will not bring them come back to life. But what motivated these men and women to travel through Afghanistan in such a carefree way in the first place, even carrying Bibles for themselves and others in their luggage? It was not just the urge to help, but also Christian missionary zeal. As if Afghanistan didn't have enough problems already. The South Koreans not only put themselves in mortal danger, they also endangered the other aid workers. The radical Islamists have long been trying to discredit all foreigners as Christian crusaders. Soon they will cite the South Korean religious aid workers as proof."

Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"The murder of two hostages has turned the hostage drama in Afghanistan into a tragedy. But how was it possible for the 23 South Koreans to find themselves in such a situation in the first place? Those who travel from Kabul to Kandahar in a minibus without protection, contacts and significant knowledge of the territory are doubtless engaging in a suicide mission. The church leaders who planned the trip are therefore partly responsible for the situation. It is hard to assess what the Korean church congregation was thinking when it decided to send young people on such a mission. Hopefully it was not pondering the notion that martyrdom represents the best way to follow in the footsteps of Jesus."

"The kidnapping has aggravated the political crisis that puts further pressure on the already weakened government of President Hamid Karzai. Much is at stake for Karzai. South Korea is an important donor country and its government is, of course, trying to free its citizens. Karzai fears that this will promote further kidnappings in Afghanistan and that he will once again be accused of being a puppet of foreign powers."

"That's why the Afghan government and the donor countries must sit down together and reflect on what kind of aid for Afghanistan is sensible and desirable. In the present political situation, a trip by Christian missionaries represents a threat for peace in the entire region."

-- Max Henninger, 4 p.m. CET

Die Wiedergabe wurde unterbrochen.