Spain to send more armour to Afghanistan
8 February 2007, SEVILLE — Spain will upgrade its contribution to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan with four unmanned spy aircraft and a plan to train the Afghan army.
8 February 2007
SEVILLE — Spain will upgrade its contribution to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan with four unmanned spy aircraft and a plan to train the Afghan army.
But it will not be sending more troops to the Central Asian nation.
Defence minister Jose Antonio Alonso was hosting a two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers on Thursday when he made the announcement.
The discussions will focus on military operations under way in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Alonso told reporters that he will take advantage of the gathering to meet with U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates, as well as with Russian defence minister Sergei Ivanov.
He made clear that Spain will not increase its troop strength in Afghanistan because, just as in Lebanon, "the Spanish contribution is (already) very important and sufficient".
About 700 Spanish soldiers are stationed in Herat and Qala i Naw, in western Afghanistan, where they are working with other NATO forces on security and reconstruction tasks.
The minister said during the alliance meeting in Seville, Spain will propose the implementation and financing of a plan to train the Afghan army so that it can progressively assume more security tasks within the country.
Regarding the increase in the quality of the Spanish contingent, the minister expressed his confidence that by this summer the four unmanned aerial vehicles Spain will buy will be operating in Afghan territory.
On his meeting with Gates, Alonso said that he expected to confirm the "good state" of relations between Spain and the United States.
He said that during their meeting he and Gates would review the situation in the world, adding that he does not plan to speak about specific matters between the two "allied and friendly" countries, who engage in bilateral dialogue when "disagreements" arise.
Ties between Madrid and Washington suffered a strain in April 2004, when Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero withdrew 1,300 Spanish troops serving with the U.S.-led occupation force in Iraq.
Representatives of 35 countries are expected to attend the Seville meeting, including 26 NATO members, seven Mediterranean nations, Russia and Afghanistan.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news