During an interview with the US news channel CNN the Spanish president, Jose Luis Zapatero, said that there was need for a greater Alliance with moderate Islamists in order to isolate radical, violent followers of Islam. He also defended NATO’s role in Afghanistan talking about ‘global political action’ but at the same time admitted that more troops were needed.
Zapatero, who is currently in New York to attend a high level meeting on Climate Change and the opening of the 64th session of the UN General Assembly, recognized that Spain would need to send more reinforcements to help peace keeping efforts in Afghanistan and said that only this week the Spanish congress had approved the sending of 220 more soldiers to the area. However, he also insisted on the need for political action and said that this would be the message that he would be giving to the US president, Barack Obama, when he meets him at the White House on 13th October.
In the interview the Spanish president also clarified the differenced between the mission in Afghanistan which has the full backing of the UN and the military intervention in Iraq which did not – Spain abandoned its military contribution to Iraq when PSOE gained power in 2004.
Zapatero said that it was essential that military action was accompanied by international cooperation and political efforts towards widening the ‘international order’. He said that if the peace process advanced in the East then this would be a significant step towards a more stable, secure, democratic Afghanistan. He also insisted that president Obama knew that Spain was committed to the international mission in Afghanistan and would remain so.
When asked about the size of Spain’s military contingent in Afghanistan compared to the British one which is ten times bigger despite that fact that the two countries have almost the same the number of armed forces Zapatero said that he considered the Spanish presence in Afghanistan to be at a ‘reasonable level’.
He also highlighted Spain’s financial contribution and cooperation efforts to the international mission in Afghanistan and said that there was ‘no security without development and logically development needed security’.
When asked whether Spain was safe from extreme Islamist terrorism after the 2004 March 11th terrorist attacks Zapatero said that ‘nobody was safe from this madness’ which is why he insisted on the need for promoting a culture of understanding between civilizations in order to isolate those who advocated violence.