16 marzo, 2015
The current Lieutenant Colonel of the Army of Spain, Pablo Muñoz Bermudo, shared his experience about the Spanish mission to Afghanistan, enrolled in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force of NATO), where he was Chief of the Army Helicopter Unit.
Firstly Pablo explained his job, that consisted on supporting helicopters both Afghan Security Forces (ANSF) as other allied units belonging to the ISAF. ISAF’s mission was to provide the necessary security for the new democratic government of Afghanistan to carry out its tasks, support the reconstruction of a country devastated by war and instruct the Armed Forces and Police Afghan in modern procedures and effective counterinsurgency. Mr. Muñoz noted how difficult the mission was: “The day was hard work because we had to plan and carry out numerous flight missions. The routine does not exist, nor on Saturdays and Sundays. Rotations were six months in which we worked every day as if they were Mondays.”
Getting deeper, Lieutenant Colonel Muñoz gave a small description, the base of operations was at the airport of the city of Herat, located in the northwest of Afghanistan. It was a very dry and dusty region, almost desert, with extreme temperatures in both summer and winter. When he was there, in summer, it was usual to reach 45 or even 50°C. Then Pablo added “The people of Herat are peaceful, as the city is eminently commercial centuries not forget that it is located in the ancient Silk Road. However, there are big differences with Western culture. Many women wear the burqa and never go out alone from their homes unless accompanied by a man. All Afghans working at the base were men. My impression is that the vast majority of people are tired of so much war and destruction and they want to live in peace and try to progress. So they were aware that our presence there was beneficial, because it kept at bay insurgents and their indiscriminate attacks.”
Spanish intervention in Afghanistan has been polemic and critized. Pablo’s perspective regarding this issue is answered with a short and clear background telling that the origin of the deployment in Afghanistan was directly related to the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 civilians died. Back then the Taliban regime ruled in Afghanistan, which came to power in 1996, following the withdrawal of former Soviet Union. This regime protected Bin Laden, mastermind of the attack, and refused to surrender for it to be judged in the US. The refusal of the Taliban regime, coupled with the barbarism that prevailed in the country, led the United Nations to authorize military intervention ISAF to overthrow the government and restore democracy. United Nations asked NATO ISAF mission to lead, because it was the only organization capable of leading a multinational force in a real war environment. All NATO countries, including Spain, joined the coalition. But many others who did not belong to NATO also participated. In total, the 28 NATO countries and 23 other foreign countries deployed in the field.
“Since the deployment began in 2001 until the disappearance of ISAF in late 2014, the preparation of the Afghan security forces improved dramatically.” With these words Pablo did not hesitate to evaluate positively the intervention. He also said that in the early years, all military operations were carried out by coalition forces. Gradually, the participation of Afghan was becoming more and more important, to the point that, in recent years, rushed autonomously with little support from the multinational coalition. The reality is that Afghans have worked hard to become a solvent and able to ensure security on their own strength. That was an achievement of the multinational coalition. As for the Spanish participation, it is clear that nations must live up to what is expected of them. It is a matter of international solidarity. Spain belongs to the most exclusive clubs in the world, and that gives us enormous commercial and political advantages, but also requires us to rise to the occasion when we are asked to cooperate with our partners and allies.
Comparing the Afghan situation with the taliban with the currently one in Syria and Iran with the Islamic State, Mr. Muñoz gives us his skeptical point of view “We will have to see how the situation evolves, but always hoping that the defense mechanisms we have in western nations will be sufficient to maintain our freedom and way of life.” And he also valued how similar both operations are saying that the current operation arises from the letter sent by the Iraqi government to the United Nations in mid 2014. The United Nations issued a resolution authorizing the use of force in support of the Iraqi government to eradicate the so-called Islamic State. Today there are over sixty countries integrating the coalition. The big difference from Afghanistan, deployed forces is limited, for the moment, to improve the readiness of Iraqi armed forces, and not used in autonomous military operations to end the IS.
Finally when Pablo was asked about his personal opinion and his time spent in Afghanistan he concluded “If my stay there has served to improve the future of the Afghan people, of course I well spent long years of my life I spent in that distant country. In the Army we are prepared to go where we ordered our government, in defending the interests of Spain and its citizens.”
Santiago Tabuenca. Middle East and Maghreb