Spain rules out more troops for Afghanistan

December 27th, 2008 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanMadrid, Dec 27 (IANS) Spain has ruled out more troops for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fighting the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan but said it was considering sending peacekeepers to war-ravaged Somalia.While ruling out out more troops for Afghanistan, Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero told reporters Friday Madrid’s involvement in the South Asian country was “very measured”, EFE reported Saturday.

The prime minister was responding to reporters’ questions during a press conference at the Moncloa Palace.

Spain’s 778-strong contingent for the ISAF is divided between the forward support base in Herat and the provincial reconstruction team in Qala e Naw. Eighty-seven Spanish troops have been killed in Afghanistan since January 2002.

Zapatero said his government was committed to the battle against Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and that he would consider providing troops for an eventual UN peacekeeping force in the west African state.

The Spanish frigate Victoria, with 200 sailors and marines aboard, is to set sail early January for the Indian Ocean to join the European Union force protecting shipping off the coast of anarchic, war-torn Somalia, Defence Minister Carme Chacon had said recently.

She announced earlier this month that the Socialist government planned to abandon its self-imposed ceiling of 3,000 on the number of Spanish troops serving abroad.

Chacon told lawmakers that from now on, the number of Spanish soldiers participating in international military missions will be limited only “by the legality of the mission, by Spaniards’ will and by the capability of the armed forces”.

She also said Spain has capacity for maintaining up to 8,000 soldiers deployed on missions abroad.

The defence minister emphasized, however, that under the new statute when it comes into force, parliament would be the only authority to authorize and fix the size of each mission.

Spain currently has some 3,000 troops assigned to UN-authorized missions in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Kosovo, Bosnia and Chad.

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