Madrid – Spain's defense minister said Tuesday that the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Afghanistan will begin in January, once Afghan President Hamid Karzai decides his government's forces can assume responsibility for security in the northwestern province of Badghis.
Carme Chacon made the announcement upon arriving at Parliament in Madrid to celebrate Spain's Consititution Day, when asked about whether the attacks Tuesday in Afghanistan that cost the lives of at least 53 people could modify the date for bringing Spanish troops home.
The bombings targeted Shias observing the Ashura holiday in Kabul and in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
The minister said that the transfer of authority to Afghanistan agreed by Karzai is good news for Spain.
Chacon confirmed that in January "the withdrawal of Spanish military forces will begin, just as we planned."
She also said that it will be necessary to wait and see what decisions are taken about Afghanistan in this week's conference at Bonn.
Spain's armed forces began serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Afghanistan in January 2002.
A total of 98 Spanish military personnel have now been killed since the mission in Afghanistan started, with 14 troops dying in insurgent attacks and 79 in air accidents.
All of the roughly 1,500 Spanish soldiers and police serving with ISAF will be withdrawn by the end of 2014, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in June.
The 2014 target for an end to ISAF operations was set by NATO members at a summit last October in Lisbon.