Kabul, Sep 26 (IANS/EFE) Spain Wednesday bade farewell to Badghis province, its zone of responsibility in the Afghanistan war since 2005, and turned over to Afghan authorities its Qala-i-Naw base.
Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Morenes presided at a ceremony at which the flags of Spain and NATO were lowered and that of Afghanistan raised above the base.
In remarks to Afghan civilian and military authorities, Morenes emphasised Spain’s commitment to peace, justice and prosperity between and among peoples.
He noted that more than 29,000 Spaniards have done tours of duty in Afghanistan since August 2004 and that 98 of them have died carrying out their mission.
Present on the occasion were Badghis Governor Ahmadullah Alizahi and Abubaker, mayor of Qala-i-Naw, who termed the day as historic for the security and governability of the region and the country.
“The day we have long awaited has arrived and all our hopes have been fulfilled,” the governor said, adding that “we will never forget (our) Spanish military friends” who have laid down their lives in Afghanistan.
The handing over of Badghis is one of the main milestones of the Spanish withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be completed next year, as agreed at the NATO summit in Lisbon.
Morenes, who landed at the Herat airport early in the day, travelled by helicopter to the Qala-i-Naw base, which since 2009 has housed the bulk of the Spanish military contingent in the central Asian country.
Currently, Spain has 989 troops stationed in Afghanistan, but that number will be reduced in the coming weeks to 660.