Spain to send 450 troops to Afghanistan during polls

April 5th, 2009 - 7:34 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Strasbourg (France), April 5 (EFE) Span has announced to send a contingent of 450 soldiers to Afghanistan to help maintain security during the general elections in August this year.
Speaking at a press conference after the two-day NATO summit here Saturday, Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said his country would send “a battalion of 450 soldiers” to Afghanistan, but they would remain only “the time that is strictly necessary” to guarantee security.

“Spain is not going to enlarge the contingent” that it currently has deployed in Afghanistan made up of 778 soldiers, so that when the electoral process is over the battalion will return home.

Zapatero also announced the sending of 40 Civil Guard agents, a contribution of five million euros ($6.7 million) towards the fund created for the Afghan elections and another four million euros ($5.4 million) for the trust fund for training the Afghan national army.

The Spaniard, after taking part in the NATO countries’ meeting of heads of state and government, said that “international terrorism continues to be a major threat and we have to fight it together”.

For Zapatero, the NATO summit has revealed the allies’ basic agreement on the need for a different global vision that is broader, more political and is led by the UN.

Zapatero expressed his support for the new plan suggested by Barack Obama for Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying: “It means a change in strategy aimed at increasing civilian and political efforts towards reconciliation and economic development, while strengthening security and our relentless fight against Taliban radicalism, against terrorist fundamentalism.”

He also stressed the need for a country like Afghanistan to be able to govern itself and guarantee its own security.

He considered the coming elections “critical” for the new strategy.

About the NATO summit, Zapatero said it was a “great opportunity to promote transatlantic dialogue and strengthen ties between Europe and the US for the security of all.”

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