S. Korea prepares for Afghanistan troop pullout

South Korea has started preparations to pull its troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year as scheduled, officials said Sunday, amid a purported offer by the Taliban to swap 23 South Korean hostages for imprisoned Taliban fighters. South Korea "has already kicked off preparations as it takes about five to six months," to bring home troops, a top Defense Ministry official told lawmakers, according to Kim Sung-gon, chief of the parliamentary defense committee. The Defense Ministry confirmed the comments but stressed that the process had begun well before the Taliban demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the war-ravaged country.