By Nathan Allen
MADRID (Reuters) -Spain will keep trying to extract Afghans who worked with Western countries in the coming months and years, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday, hours after the last two Spanish rescue planes left Kabul for Dubai.
“We are going to work calmly and discreetly. We are already thinking about how to set up an operation to bring back those Afghan allies and their families who we could not evacuate,” he told a news conference.
He said his government had not ruled out any kind of effort to bring back as many such Afghans as possible.
But he did not specify what that might entail or how many such people remained in the country.
Declaring “mission accomplished,” Sanchez said Spain had evacuated 2,206 people on 17 flights, most of them Afghans who had worked with Spanish forces and the embassy, European Union institutions and with the U.S. forces.
Two military planes carrying the last contingent of 81 Spaniards and 83 Afghans out of Kabul arrived in Dubai early on Friday, the government said in a statement. Most of those are set to land at Madrid’s Torrejon airbase later on Friday.
Calling on European nations to present a united front to accommodate the refugees, Sanchez said the West’s hurried exit from Afghanistan would have lasting consequences.
Spain may temporarily host up to 4,000 Afghans who had worked for the United States at two military bases used by the U.S. military in southern Spain.
Spain sent some 27,000 troops to Afghanistan over almost 20 years of involvement in the conflict. A total of 102 of its soldiers died.
(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Hugh Lawson)