At the Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base

The last Spanish troops have just arrived home after being deployed in Afghanistan

News - 2021.5.13

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His Majesty King Felipe VI, the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, and the Minister for Defence, Margarita Robles, have greeted the last Spanish contingent in Afghanistan, with which Spain ends almost 20 years of involvement

The 24 soldiers and two local interpreters of the 'Resolute Support' mission, the last Spanish relief force in Afghanistan, landed at seven o'clock in the evening at the Torrejón Air Base, where their families were waiting for them and an act of recognition was held for personnel participating in missions in Afghanistan.

Robles had a few words for all the men and women of the Armed Forces who, with their devotion, generosity and sacrifice, have signed Spain's commitment to peace and international security, and made special tribute to the 102 who "died giving the best of themselves, their young lives, to give peace and freedom to others" and also asked for forgiveness "with all my heart if any of their relatives at any time did not feel accompanied or supported".

"I want to publicly express the commitment of the whole of Spain, which owes a debt of gratitude to those of you who have returned, to those of you who are here, to those who have not returned, to their families," said Robles.

"You have the commitment from all of us that we will ensure that the sacrifice you have made for peace, freedom and security will never be forgotten throughout history," she said.

"When you suffer in Afghanistan, we suffer in Spain. The Armed Forces, the Police, the Civil Guard and the National Intelligence Centre are well aware of this," Robles stressed.

The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral General Teodoro López Calderón, also attended the tribute, which also included numerous civilian and military authorities, such as the Director of the CNI, Paz Esteban; the Undersecretary of Defence, Amparo Valcarce; and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force: General Francisco Varela, Admiral General Antonio Martorell, and Air Force General Javier Salto, respectively; as well as the Directors General of the National Police and the Civil Guard.

Two decades, three missions

Spain has had an important role in Enduring Freedom, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and Resolute Support, the latter two being headed by NATO forces.

A first contingent of 350 military personnel was deployed for the first time in January 2002, after the 9/11 attacks, and "paved the way for the more than 27,100 men and women who have contributed to peace and security on Afghan soil", said the Commander of the Operations Command (CMOPS), Lieutenant General Francisco Braco, in his account of the missions.

"We went to Afghanistan together, we've been there together, and we're coming back together," he said, referring to the joint withdrawal of NATO member states decided on 14 April.

In the ISAF mission between 2002 and 2014, the Armed Forces made various forms of contributions, which had the involvement of the two armies as well the Navy, and which aimed to assist the Afghan interim government in maintaining security.

The Army took over, among other capacities, the Badghis Provincial Reconstruction Team, with its capital in Qala-e-Naw, made up of military and civilian personnel, through the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID).

The Navy deployed Tactical Air Control Teams (TACPs) and Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) alongside the armies, while the Air Force took command of the Forward Air Base in Herat, as well as taking over the Deployment Support Medical Unit.

The Guardia Civil, through different contingents, also "contributed to improving and normalising the functioning of the Afghan police", Braco pointed out.

In 2015, NATO's new Resolute Support mission focused on training, advising and mentoring by way of support of Afghan security institutions and the Afghan Security and Defence Forces.

In 2018, Spain adapted its contribution to this mission with the deployment of a Special Operations Force, a unit that was withdrawn today.

"Once again the Armed Forces have lived up to what has been expected of them," said the CMOPS, which also recalled the efforts of other bodies, such as the CNI, the National Police Corps, Non-Governmental Organisations, the AECID and Spanish companies and foundations.

"This is the culmination of all the efforts made by thousands of our military and civilians, contributing with tenacity and pride in the fight against terrorism and helping a society that needed it," he stated.

Unforgettable effort

The Spanish military´s effort in Afghanistan includes more than 28,000 long patrols along the Lithium Route, or approximately 1,400 explosive ordnance disposal missions.

The Armed Forces have also made Herat's main airport operational and secure, whilst having provided essential infrastructure which brings electricity and water to homes.

Finally, the Spanish missions have shown humanity and empathy with the country´s most vulnerable, in orphanages and schools in Qala-e-Naw, witnessing the integration of boys and girls in their classrooms.

Non official translation