When José Manuel Albares took office as Foreign Minister on July 12, he did not pronounce the word “Afghanistan.” And the headlines of his speech included that he had referred to Morocco, a country with which it was experiencing a serious diplomatic crisis, as a “great friend.” The chronicles pointed out that the problems with Rabat had targeted his predecessor, Arancha González Laya, and that the most urgent mission of the one who was a close collaborator of Pedro Sánchez in Moncloa before his jump as ambassador in Paris in January 2020 was to redirect relations with the Alawite regime.
But no one foresaw, that July 12, that four weeks later the Taliban were going to take control of Afghanistan and that Spain was going to play a leading role in the time-trial evacuation of the collaborators of the European institutions in Kabul. “One never chooses in foreign policy the circumstances that are imposed on him. But he can choose his attitude towards them. We have done that, in line with Spanish society,” the minister said this Monday. in his appearance before the Foreign Committee of the Congress to talk about the Afghan crisis and his plans at the head of his department.
Albares rose to the top of the Foreign Ministry after having been the sherpa by Pedro Sánchez, the viceroy of the President of the Government for international affairs, and at a time that seemed marked by European recovery funds to overcome the economic, social and health crisis of the pandemic, as well as by advances in vaccination. “He is someone I know well,” said the minister about Sánchez at his inauguration. “I have worked with him, advising and learning from him, always in the field of international relations since his inception as general secretary of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party and in the presidency of the Government.”
AND in that speech he reached out to MoroccoIndeed: “We are a Mediterranean country, and with our southern neighbors we have to strengthen relations, especially with Morocco. Our great neighbor and friend to the south.” Over time, relations with Morocco seem to be getting back on track.
On the eve of the rupture of relations between Rabat and Algiers, the King of Morocco, Mohamed VI, settled the open diplomatic crisis with Spain, wishing to “inaugurate an unprecedented stage based on trust, transparency, mutual consideration and respect for commitments. “.
“With sincere optimism, we express the desire to continue working with the Spanish Government and its president, Pedro Sánchez, in order to inaugurate an unprecedented stage in relations between our two countries,” said the Alawite monarch on August 20, after Also, that the Spanish Government decided to go back to Morocco in groups of 15 aboard vans without carrying out individual files and without hearing children and adolescents. A decision that has run aground in a court of the autonomous city of Ceuta by means of two consecutive cars in which the judge has decided to paralyze that device that is not complying with all the requirements established by the Immigration Law.
The National Court, for its part, has rejected this Monday the allegations of the Interior and will investigate the repatriations of minors from Ceuta. Thus, the court gives a period of eight days to the Spanish Network for Immigration and Refugee Assistance, which filed the appeal, so that it can formalize the demand on the allegedly illegal return of minors to Morocco from the autonomous city.
“We have not deported children illegally,” Albares said in Congress, adding: “Morocco is a friend, partner and neighbor country. I want to get along extraordinarily well with Morocco.”
Afghanistan: central issue
This Monday, Albares appeared in the Foreign Committee of the Congress of Deputies. And this time the central issue has been Afghanistan, while it took more than an hour to mention Morocco. And it is that, for Albares, that of Afghanistan has been the “most complex evacuation since the Berlin crisis of 1948. Our slogan has been and continues to be clear: leave no one behind.” However, as Defense Minister Margarita Robles said, people have been left behind.
“The mission continues”, said Albares: “We continue to have collaborators from Spain at risk. Yesterday [por este domingo] se, published a statement from 100 countries, including Spain, in which it is said that collaborators can leave Afghanistan after August 31. That’s where we are now and we are not going to give up. Leaving no one behind is not a motto, it is what all the EU and NATO countries are working on. We must ensure that Afghan collaborators and their families can leave Afghanistan; that emergency help can be brought to those who are going to suffer from our absence; and respect for human rights. “However, Albares has avoided giving details about how the operation will be from now on:” The Government of Spain remains committed to them, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of those who have stayed there but they have not been left behind. ”
“Nobody expected the fall of the Afghan government in days,” said Albares, who mentioned US reports that, even on August 11, four days before the fall of Kabul, claimed that the Afghan government had the resources to sustain the offensive. Taliban for several months: “The analyzes put the Afghan army at 300,000 troops and with air force. Supposedly they were well trained, with 83,000 million dollars allocated in these years. And, opposite, there were 70,000 Taliban. Self-criticism cannot only be of Spain. It was a NATO operation. At the end of July, all the intelligence analyzes spoke that the arrival of the Taliban could take years or at least 6 months. And on August 11, days after entering Kabul, the American forces spoke of 90 days. ”
However, as Foreign sources explain, “the main issue that has occupied the minister’s energies in recent weeks has been the evacuation of Afghanistan, one of the most complex in recent history.” Thus, they report: “The objective of the Government has been, firstly, to put all Spaniards and their collaborators to safety and, secondly, to show their solidarity with their partners. Beyond the decision itself to launch an evacuation device Among the initiatives taken by the minister has been to propose, in the Extraordinary Affairs Council of August 17, that Spain function as hub reception and transit of people linked to the EU before sending them to other countries to process asylum applications. He has also spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to ensure the coordination of evacuations. On August 23, the agreement between Spain and the US was launched so that the latter would use the Morón and Rota bases as temporary reception centers. [para evacuados por EEUU]”.
According to the data provided by Albares in the Foreign Affairs commission, “2,206 people have landed in Torrejón in 17 flights, with a staggered scheme: first, the Spanish (5 people on the first flight); and all the embassy staff; then to Afghan collaborators and their families. It is not a national operation, but a commitment of Spain to its partners and allies. You can always count on the solidarity of the Spanish.
As the minister has detailed, “2,206 people have been welcomed, of which 400 are family units. 1,671 are Spanish contingent; 333 are linked to the EU External Action Service; 131 have been from the US; 50, from the NATO, and 21, from Portugal “. According to Albares, “all have come after an important security screening.”
But, according to foreign sources, there have been other issues on the minister’s table in these 50 days. “We have had to face some other issue, such as the attempt by Saudi Arabia to move the headquarters of the World Tourism Organization from Madrid to Riyadh. The Ministry has made arrangements at the highest level with the Saudi ambassador and the head of their diplomacy to show them our most emphatic opposition and rejection of their initiative. Likewise, support has been sought among many of the UNWTO member countries to try to prevent the vote or, failing that, to obtain their support for the Madrid headquarters. ”
In addition, Albares has faced the internal remodeling of the Ministry. “It has recovered the historic Secretariat of State for Ibero-America, to which it has also added the promotion of Spanish in the world”, they explain in the Ministry: “It has also carried out a profound organic renewal in the direction of the ministry and in embassies abroad, filling positions that had been vacant for a long time in destinations such as London or New Delhi. ”
“Regarding his long-term priorities for foreign policy, the minister has already pointed to the European Union, Latin America and the Mediterranean as major regional focuses,” the sources continue: “Relations with Morocco have improved, as shown by recent words of King Mohamed VI calling to inaugurate a new stage in relations with the Government of Pedro Sánchez. The minister has shown his desire to carry out a policy of facts, actions and results. ”