After Zapatero's withdrawal in 2004, the Spanish military returned to the country in 2015 for advisory missions
MADRID, 19 Mar. (EUROPA PRESS) -
This Monday marks the twentieth anniversary of the start of the invasion of Iraq, launched on March 20, 2003 outside the United Nations with the aim of overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and Spain is still present in the country with a total of 323 soldiers and a general ready to lead the NATO mission there starting next May.
Spain's participation in the US-led coalition sparked a wave of protests that culminated in José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's announcement in April 2004 --just a month after winning the general elections-- to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
However, the Spanish military returned to the country ten years later, already in 2015, as part of a multinational coalition with the United States again at the forefront. This is the 'Inherent Resolve' mission, "with the purpose of contributing to the strengthening of the Iraqi Armed Forces to defeat DAESH and achieve the established national objectives."
In addition, in 2018 it joined another operation in Iraq, in which Spain also participates, under the NATO flag to advise its government in the area of the national security structure and develop its professional military education system.
Specifically, there are currently 323 Spanish soldiers in Iraq, 168 in the international coalition and another 155 in the Atlantic Alliance mission, according to data provided by the Defense Staff (EMAD) to Europa Press.
The activities assigned to 'Inherent Resolve' are carried out by Spanish instructors at the 'Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center', where Iraqi counterterrorism service (CTS) units are trained by members of the Coalition's Special Operations Unit (SOTG).
Also part of the Spanish contingent in Iraq are soldiers belonging to the 'Task Force' Toro, a unit of Cougar helicopters deployed at the Al Asad airbase. Their primary mission is to provide airlift for coalition troops.
For their part, NATO troops work from Baghdad "supporting security and counterterrorism in Iraq." Starting next May, the Spanish general José Antonio Agüero Martínez will lead this mission.
With him, Spain will now lead four international missions: that of Iraq, that of the UN in Lebanon with General Aroldo Lázaro, that of Mali with General Fernando Gracia and Operation Atalanta, which has its headquarters at the Rota base.
The current situation in Iraq is marked by the fact that close to half of its population was born after the start of the invasion and faces enormous difficulties in finding employment in an economy that is almost totally dependent on oil, which for the last decade has accounted for more than 99 percent of exports and 85 percent of government budgets, according to World Bank data.
In January 2021, the unemployment rate exceeded 20 percent, mainly affecting young people, deeply dissatisfied with the political and economic elites, perceived as widely corrupt, while the public system continues to be unreliable due to the inability to reactivate it after two years. decades of conflict and instability.
Iraq has also managed to strengthen its security forces with US support and, after the end of the 'caliphate', it hopes to stabilize the economic situation through a series of reforms that can finally materialize the demands of the population for a better quality of life. life and fundamental rights nearly two decades after the outbreak of the war.