Spain to begin Afghan withdrawal in 2012
Spain has about 1,500 troops serving with the NATO-led ISAF in Afghanistan.
Madrid: Spain will begin to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 2012, Defence Ministry sources told EFE.
This will allow the Spanish government to adhere to the schedule set by NATO last November at a summit in Lisbon for the withdrawal of all international troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Spain has about 1,500 troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Carme Chacon on Wednesday said that starting this summer Spain will begin the transfer of authority to Afghan security forces in Herat province.
Then, the Spanish contingent stationed in that zone, some 500 troops, will join up with the roughly 1,000-strong unit deployed in the province of Badghis.
The Defence Ministry announcement comes shortly after US President Barack Obama announced that this year 10,000 US soldiers will return from Afghanistan and by September 2012, 33,000 US troops would have been withdrawn.
The Defence Ministry sources said no Spanish forces will be withdrawn this year.
The transfer of authority to the Afghans in Herat will occur toward the end of the year and in 2012 the same process will be undertaken in Badghis, where Spanish troops are concentrating their efforts on training Afghan forces.
As the Afghan police and military begin carrying out their security responsibilities, the Spanish troops will be steadily withdrawn from that province, the sources said.
Ninety-two Spanish military personnel have died since the Afghanistan mission began in 2002.