Spain agrees to beef up Afghan force

July 30, 2009 at 7:55 AM
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MADRID, July 30 (UPI) -- In an apparent gesture to support the Obama administration, Spain says it is willing to send more troops on long-term assignment to Afghanistan.

That word came from Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero after his government repeatedly resisted calls from the United States and other NATO allies to increase its Afghan force.

Zapatero told The New York Times Spain would consider extending temporary deployment of troops sent to help with security ahead of the Aug. 20 Afghan presidential election.

"If there is the need to sustain a greater number of presences in Afghanistan, we are willing to do so," he said in an interview at the Moncloa palace in Madrid.

Spain, which is to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union in January, has about 800 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in northwest provinces of Herat and Badghis. Some 450 more soldiers were sent for election duty.

Spain's troop levels are about one-third the size of France's or Germany's, in a combined NATO force of 64,000.

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