The King Felipe VI receives this Thursday at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base (Madrid) the last 24 servicemen stationed in Afghanistan, country from which Spain retires after 19 years leaving behind a hundred deaths in the longest military operation in which he has participated.
It is planned that the king, accompanied by the president Pedro Sanchez and the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, receive at seven in the afternoon the 24 military, accompanied by two local interpreters, and also pay tribute to the fallen, in an act that closes a mission in which they have participated around 27,000 Spanish troops over almost twenty years.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 in USA They led this country to launch Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban, to which was added the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) approved by the UN. Spain’s participation was approved in the Council of Ministers on December 27, 2001, with a maximum of 485 military personnel and for a period of three months, but it has been extended until now.
In January 2002 the first 350 Spaniards arrived in Kabul, in August 2003 NATO assumed command of the ISAF and two years later Spain assumed command of the base in the town of Herat, in the west of the country, and took over of the provincial reconstruction team in nearby Qala-i-Naw, where it established a base.
Spain’s largest contribution to ISAF was achieved in 2010, after the approval by Congress of a maximum deployment of 1,549 personnel. In 2011, NATO began handing over the country’s security to Afghan forces. The ISAF ended on December 31, 2015 and a day later a new mission of the Atlantic Alliance was established, “Resolute Support” (Resolute Support), focused on training and advising the forces. afghans.
The bulk of the Spanish troops left the country in the last week of October 2015 and 95 soldiers remained, reducing their number to 24 during the pandemic. These troops had been under the Special Operations Command since 2018 and were dedicated to training Afghans in this type of operations and providing protection and security to deployed personnel.
Throughout the 19 years of mission, 100 soldiers (including two civil guards), 2 national police and two interpreters who worked for the Spanish troops have passed away in the Asian country.
That of Afghanistan is thus the operation that has cost the most lives to Armed forces of the around 180 soldiers killed in international operations, followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina, with 23 dead. Among them are the 62 deaths in the largest incident in the history of the Armed Forces, that of the Yakovlev-42 plane, which crashed in Turkey with them on board returning from Afghanistan. In 2005 another 17 died near Herat when the helicopter in which they were traveling crashed.
Spanish forces have suffered over the years at least 79 attacks and armed incidents (the first in 2006 and the last in 2013), according to the EFE database, and many of the deaths were due to explosions of devices and mines passing convoys.
The departure from Afghanistan is part of the total withdrawal from the Asian country announced by the United States, whose last phase began on May 1 and will be completed on September 11, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Al Qaeda attacks. However, the troops will withdraw from the country without having prevented the terrorist organization from posing a threat and both the Afghan government and the international community have warned that the jihadist group could increase its presence when the United States and its allies leave.
Violence is still present in the country, where last Saturday 85 people, mostly girls, were killed in an unclaimed terrorist attack against a Kabul girls’ school.