Spain mulls sending more troops to Afghanistan

6th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish government has yet to decide on sending reinforcements to Afghanistan despite its foreign minister’s earlier remarks that Spain will send a small number of troops.

MADRID – Spain said Friday it has not yet decided whether to boost its military contingent in Afghanistan ahead of elections due there in August, as sought by Washington.

Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Madrid is about to provide a "small number" of additional troops to boost its 778-member force there, part of the 62,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from 42 countries.

He would not give an exact figure, but Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said 12 additional troops would be sent to help with training an Afghan army battalion.

She said the government is also considering a reinforcement of its contingent to improve security for the 20 August presidential and provincial elections, but "Spain has taken no decision for the moment".

The newspaper El Pais said the Spanish contingent would be strengthened to more than 1,000 personnel.

The foreign minister’s statements came as President Barack Obama arrived in France to meet European leaders and drum up support for his new Afghan war strategy at the NATO alliance's 60th anniversary summit.

Moratinos said the additional troops will be in charge of training an Afghan army battalion.

Spain is also looking into the possibility of contributing to the European police force in Afghanistan.

Washington has decided to send 21,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan and is considering deploying 10,000 more, while asking the allies to contribute more of their own soldiers and civilian support staff.

Moratinos had said in February that sending more troops to Afghanistan "is not a solution" to resolving the country's problems.

But Spain last month annoyed both NATO and the United States by announcing the withdrawal of its 630 troops from the NATO-led force in Kosovo. Madrid has refused to recognise Kosovo's unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia last year.

AFP / Expatica

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