The Spanish prime minister has announced that all 500 Spanish troops in Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission are to return to Spain by October 12.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told the Spanish parliament that the withdrawal began on September 21 after the troops had accomplished their mission of boosting security around Afghanistan's parliamentary and provincial elections.
He also announced that Spain will invest around 10 million euros in improving the infrastructure in the area where the Spanish peacekeepers were operating.
Zapatero - who immediately withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq on being elected following the Madrid train bombings in March 2004 - also paid tribute to the 17 Spanish military personnel who died when their helicopter came down in the western Herat region of the war torn country last month, saying they had sacrificed their lives for the UN mission.
It was the second major air accident involving Spanish troops deployed in Afghanistan. In May 2003 a plane taking 62 troops back to Spain crashed in Turkey, killing all on board.
Spain has been part of the UN peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan since May 2002. Zapatero told parliament that Spanish troops had completed 40 peacekeeping missions under NATO. There are currently 2,678 Spanish peacekeepers on missions around the world, including Afghanistan and the Balkans, the AKI reports.
Photo: the AP