“The Government does not consider, of course, to recognize the Taliban regime,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, in Congress on Monday . The holder of the portfolio has appeared in an extraordinary session of the Foreign Commission of the lower house to explain, among other matters, the management of the evacuation of Spaniards and collaborators of Spain in Afghanistan , which ceased last Friday 27 “when leaving meeting the minimum security conditions “and now ” will continue in other ways. ”
The withdrawal of the US forces from Kabul airport “makes it unfeasible to continue with the operation in this way”, he said to summarize what he considers “one of the most complex evacuations that the international community has had to manage since the Berlin crisis. 1948, because of the extreme difficulty of the conditions in which it was carried out, because of the record time in which it was assembled, but above all because of its objective: our watchword has been and continues to be at all times not to leave anyone behind. ”
In less than ten years, the Spanish action in the Afghan province of Baghdis elevated that area to second place in infrastructure development in the country, Albares recalled, thanking “the extraordinary work of more than 25,000 members of the Armed Forces” since 2001, which has summed up:
“We built 160 kilometers of roads, we equipped the first provincial hospital, we built seven rural clinics, a water and sanitation network in the capital, three institutes, one of them for women, and schools for 2,000 boys and girls . ” And he has promised: “We cannot resign ourselves to all this being a parenthesis in Afghanistan.”
On August 10, as confirmed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the daily meetings of an inter-ministerial technical working committee began to organize the evacuation. “The plans accelerated from August 14 when the situation on the ground changed drastically and unpredictably,” he said.
In this part of his speech before the Foreign Affairs Committee of Congress, the minister has given the deputies some details of the evacuation operation, such as how to reunite the people likely to be rescued. The Afghan collaborators were sent a WhatsApp message containing a map with a meeting point, provisional supporting documentation and directions in Spanish, English and Dari to reach the Spanish forces. Once at the Kabul airport, the newcomers shouted “Spain” or held up a flag to be recognized in the crowd.
There was “a careful security screening” of the people rescued, a double filter of the people who were to be evacuated. A first of a preventive nature in Afghanistan, by the CNI and the Ministry of the Interior and with identity verification by GEOs in situ, at the airport, and an additional one on the Dubai scale, where, after being verified of Again the identity of the refugee, basic products were provided.
Out of danger
It has been “an unprecedented evacuation operation in the history of Spain”, for the rescue of 2,206 people on 17 flights, eleven from Spain and six from the EU Foreign Service, he summarized. In the contingent of evacuees there is not only all the official staff of the Spanish embassy in Kabul, but also “all the subcontracted personnel”, he confirmed. Among the 2,206 there are “more than a thousand” collaborators of the Spanish military missions and their families, he added.
Among the people evacuated by Spain, there are cases of “specific risk”, has counted José Manuel Albares, among them “public officials, activists and human rights defenders.
The minister has cited the cases of Nilofar Bayat, a paralimipic athlete, the first mayor of Afghanistan or the one who was the youngest deputy in the Afghan parliament.
Albares has insisted on the version that “nobody foresaw the collapse of the Afghan government in a matter of days.” According to him, the forecasts of the international community, “including NATO and the United Nations” was that “the Afghan authorities had the capacity to resist the Taliban for at least months.”
And he has cited as an objective data of support for that forecast that “the Afghan army had about 300,000 troops and with the support of an air force that the Taliban did not have. In front of them, the Taliban forces were estimated at about 75,000” .
The minister has cited “intelligence sources” to say that even when the Taliban offensive began, such a rapid collapse of the capital was not expected. “Various sources indicated in early August that the Taliban offensive was losing steam. And on August 11, days before the fall of Kabul, US sources were still evaluating the resistance capacity in three months.”
Warn the Spanish
Against this background, the Foreign Minister has highlighted how “already last May the Spanish Government was activated before the start of the withdrawal of US troops.” And soon the sending of warning messages about the deterioration of the situation to the members of the Spanish colony in Afghanistan began, as EL PERIÓDICO advanced , culminating with an update on July 5 of the travel recommendations, with which Foreign he dedicated himself “to discouraging displacement in any circumstance.”
From the embassy in Kabul “the members of the Spanish colony were notified one by one to advise them to leave the country or not to return if they were away,” said Albares, to explain why, when the collapse became evident, “only five Spaniards remained in the country, apart from the Spanish embassy staff. ”
At the time of seeding the rescue operation with a central position in Spain with its hub in Torrejón and the reception in the joint use bases of Rota and Morón, Albares has quoted the words “that the president said in a very beautiful way.” of the European Commission, Úrsula Von der Leyen , when he assured, visiting the Torrejón base, that this action by Spain “Spain has offered with this initiative an example of the soul of Europe”.
The minister has left in his speech samples of a new lubrication in the dialogue with the United States , after having obtained the Spanish action “the recognition of President Biden, the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department …” in addition to the conversations between Pedro Sánchez and Joe Biden and theirs with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “.