Spain PM Zapatero makes surprise Afghanistan visit


MADRID — Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan Saturday and said Spanish troops were not there to stay. “The mission in Afghanistan is an arduous task which demands time,” he said at the Spanish base at Qala-i-Naw in western Afghanistan in comments broadcast on Spanish public radio. “We are not here to stay but we have a firm commitment until the Afghans can guarantee their own security. When we achieve this they will have won a better future and we all will have gained a more secure future.” Zapatero visited Spanish troops serving with NATO-led international forces, accompanied by Spanish Defense Minister Carme Chacon and Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez.

It was his second visit to Afghanistan since he took office in 2004. Spain has some 1,500 troops serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, according to the ISAF website, part of a 141,000-strong force deployed in Afghanistan to battle a Taliban-led insurgency nearing the end of its ninth year. The Spanish contingent runs a U.S.-led civil-military operation known as a Provincial Reconstruction Team.