His Majesty the King Felipe VI, the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the Minister of Defence, Margarita Robles, welcomed the last Spanish contingent in Afghanistan this afternoon, completing almost 20 years deployed in Afghanistan.
The 24 military personnel and two local interpreters of ‘Resolute Support’ mission, the last Spanish rotation in Afghanistan, landed at Torrejón AFB at 7PM, where their families were waiting for them and a ceremony of appreciation for all personnel involved in the Afghan mission was held.
Minister Robles said a few words for all the men and women of the Armed Forces, plenty of dedication, generosity and sacrifice, confirmed Spain's commitment to international peace and security; she also had a special memory to the 102 who “died giving their best of themselves, their young lives, to give peace and freedom to others" and asked forgiveness" with all my heart if any of their relatives at any time has not felt accompanied or supported".
"I want to publicly express the commitment of all of Spain, which owes a debt of gratitude to those who have returned and with those who have not returned and with their families," said minister Robles.
"You have the pledge for all of us that we will ensure that throughout history the sacrifice that you have made for peace, freedom and security is never forgotten," said the head of the Department.
“When anyone of you suffers in Afghanistan, we suffer in Spain. The Armed Forces, the Police, the Civil Guard and the National Intelligence Centre know this well”, minister Robles stressed.
TWO DECADES, THREE MISSIONS
Enduring Freedom, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and Resolute Support, the last two under the command of NATO, are the three missions in which Spain has taken part.
A first contingent of 350 soldiers deployed for the first time in January 2002, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and "paved the way for the more than 27,100 men and women who have contributed to peace and security in Afghan lands", the commander of the Operations Command (CMOPS), Lieutenant General Francisco Braco, said.
"We went to Afghanistan together, we have been there together and we return together," he said, referring to the joint withdrawal of the NATO member countries agreed on April 14.
Within the ISAF mission, between 2002 and 2014, the Armed Forces contributed with different capabilities and the participation of the the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, with the aim of assisting the Afghan provisional government in maintaining security.
The Army took over, among other services, the Badghis Provincial Reconstruction Team, based in Qala-e-Naw, made up of military troops and other civilian personnel, through the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development. (AECID).
The Navy deployed, along with the Army and the Air Force, Tactical Air Control Teams (TACP) and Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs), while the Air Force assumed command of the Herat Air Base, in addition to taking charge of the Deployment Support Medical Unit.
Also the Civil Guard, through different contingents, "contributed to improve and normalize the operation of the Afghan police," Lieutenant General Braco stressed.
In 2015, NATO's new Resolute Support mission focused on training, advising and mentoring in support of Afghan security institutions and their Security and Defence Forces.
In 2018, Spain adapted its contribution to this mission with the deployment of a Special Operations unit which has withdrawn today.
"Once again the Armed Forces have lived up to what has been demanded”, said the CMOPS, which has also recalled the efforts of others, such as the CNI, the National Police Corps, Non-Governmental Organizations, the AECID and Spanish companies and foundations.
"This is the finishing touch to the effort made by thousands of our military and civilians, contributing with determination and pride in the fight against terrorism and helping a society that needed it", he stressed.
Examples of the work of the Spanish military in Afghanistan include the more than 28,000 long patrols along the Lithium Route, or the approximately 1,400 explosives deactivation missions.
Armed Forces have also made the main airport in Herat operational and secure, or have adapted essential infrastructures to bring electricity and water to households.
Finally, the Spanish missions have had that humanitarian and empathy stamp facing the most vulnerable, in orphanages and schools in Qala-e-Naw, witnessing the integration of boys and girls in their classrooms.