Saturday, March 13, 2010

THERE'S STILL MORE on the alleged problems between American and Spanish troops in Afghanistan on today's La Vanguardia (see previous post here). According to the Barcelona-based newspaper, the Spanish military attribute the friction to misundertandings at subordinate levels. Oddly, it quotes an unnamed ministry official, which could be either sloppy journalism (if the source wishes to remain anonymous the reporter should say so and the reason why), or that the Defense ministry wants to have it both ways: making it sound as a sort of official response without being a real official response, just in case they need to perform some CYA if the allegations are further proven.

Here's my translation (done in haste, with hardly any proofreading):
"The relationship between Spanish and U.S. troops in Afghanistan are good," Spanish Defense Ministry sources insist. They show documents and letters exchanged between senior commanders of both armies. In a letter dated yesterday, Col. Robert J. Ulses, responsible for U.S. military logistics in Afghanistan [NOTE: I believe this is wrong, since he is Chief of Staff of US troops in Afghanistan -- JMG], told Colonel Jesus de Miguel that the command in the Spanish base in Qala-i-Naw (one of three Spanish posts in Afghanistan) "has adequately addressed requests for help to USFOR-A DET (U.S. forces in Afghanistan) in the western areas of the country.

With these documents, the Defense ministry reacts to a report circulating on the Internet in recent days: according to an email making the rounds among U.S. troops, the Spanish refuse to help U.S. Marines who live or stop at the base. [NOTE: Partial, short selection of a few quotes of the emails omitted here to avoid redundancy -- JMG]

Defense says the real situation is not so. A spokesman gave two examples to La Vanguardia. He said that the Spanish troops in Qala-i-Naw (northwest) responded well to twelve Marines who had called for help after a mission by the river Murghab, the most dangerous area of the Badguis province. "They were offered food and a shower, the same conditions as the Spanish troops," he said. And then he mentioned another example: a Spanish unit worked with an American unit in defusing an IED (improvised explosive device) in Mukuro.

"Every two weeks, he continued, U.S. soldiers camped in the open go to Qala-i-Naw. They eat, shower and rest a few days before returning to his mission."

According to the letter from Colonel Ulses, complaints circulating on the internet "might reflect the lack of understanding between subordinate units at the base. "We will take steps to ensure that in the future all matters are routed through the appropriate channel," he said.

In the past year, U.S. commanders have sent several letters to Spain's Chief of Staff General Jose Julio Rodriguez, thanking him for the support from the Spanish troops. They were signed by General McChrystal, General Petraeus or General McColl. Admiral Stavridis (1 December 2009) welcomed "the continuing commitment (from Spain) with the security and stability in Afghanistan at this critical and historic moment." During a meeting in Washington in July, Defense minister Carme Chacón and Defense secretary Robert Gates, emphasized the "total harmony between the two countries."

Today, Spain has 1,065 troops in Afghanistan, with 511 more joining the mission in the coming weeks.