There are now reports that a deal has been reached between the Korean government and the Taliban to release the remaining 19 hostages in Afghanistan:
The South Korean government remained calm Sunday despite reports that a deal has been reached on the release of 19 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan, but indicated that progress was being made in negotiations.
“There is no agreement yet for the release of the hostages,” a Foreign Ministry official said, asking that he not be identified. “Currently, we are moving on all fronts for the release of the hostages so there could be an outcome within days.”
The official was commenting on a report by the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) a day earlier that the Koreans will soon be released in a deal, in which the Seoul government has agreed to withdraw within “weeks” its 200-member army engineering unit deployed in the war-torn country. [Yonhap]
As I said before, I suspect a deal has been done and the hostages will be released over Ramadan. The Taliban does not want to be identified as the common Mafioso criminals that they are, thus openly releasing the hostages for a ransom payment is not they image they want to portray to the Muslim world. They want to covertly receive the ransom payment and then release the prisoners over Ramadan and claim they were released for humanitarian reasons. In Islamic culture Ramadan is the time of year when prisoners can receive forgiveness and amnesty from their captors. Ramadan begins September 13th. Thus sometime around September 13th I suspect they will be released.
Additionally the withdrawal of the engineer unit is just an added benefit to give legitimacy to their kidnapping of the Koreans in the first place. The only problem left to figure out is how to covertly receive the ransom payment. This is where the Saudis come in. Reports have also come out that the Saudis are helping the Koreans secure the hostages’ release. The Saudis will probably act as the money launderers for the Korean money.
This makes the Taliban happy because they get their ransom payment while simultaneously maintaining their image of being mujahadeen instead of the common criminals that they are and the Koreans are happy because they secured the hostages’ release. The only ones that lose in all of this are the two dead Korean hostages executed by the Taliban and the future Afghan civilians and coalition forces killed with the new armaments that the Taliban will be able to buy courtesy of the Korean government, but since when has the Korean government cared about that?