Since 1989, the Spanish Armed Forces have participated in missions abroad. In general, these international missions serve three major strategic objectives: provide stability and security; fight against terrorism; and deterrence and defence of allied territory. On the other hand, most of them take place at the multilateral level —led by the United Nations, the European Union or the Atlantic Alliance—; while others are the consequence of bilateral agreements within the so-called Defence Diplomacy.
UNITED NATIONS MISSIONS
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Operación Libre hidalgo (Spanish name)
UNIFIL has been deployed in Lebanon since 1978, and its current mission is to monitor the cessation of hostilities, support the Lebanese army in its activities within the sector and support the Government of Lebanon in the exercise of its authority. In August 2022, the United Nations Security Council has approved the extension of UNIFIL’s mandate until August 31, 2023.
Currently, Spain leads the UNIFIL mission. Brigadier General Aroldo Lázaro Sáenz is head of the Mission and commander of the UNIFIL Force.
Spain exercises command of the Eastern Sector of UNIFIL —formed by forces from Indonesia, India, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Argentina, Brazil and Spain—; and more than 600 soldiers and civil guards are currently deployed, which represents the largest contribution of the Spanish Armed Forces abroad.
United Nations monitoring of the Peace Agreement in Colombia
By resolution of the Council. of January 2016, a political mission of the United Nations (MISSION I) was established to form part of the tripartite mechanism —together with the Government of Colombia and the FARC—, which is in charge of implementing a Peace Agreement in that country, by monitoring and verifying the ceasefire and hostilities, as well as the laying down of weapons. The resolution states that said participation will be carried out through unarmed international observers.
In 2017, a new resolution establishes a Second Political Mission, known as MISSION II, whose main task would be to verify the complete reinsertion and reintegration of former FARC guerrilla personnel, as well as verify the ceasefire.
Currently, Spain deploys observers from the Armed Forces and the Guardia Civil.
MISSIONS AND OPERATIONS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
European Union Force in Bosnia Herzegovina (BiH). EUFOR Althea
The mission of the EU Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR Althea) is to cooperate with the Government in maintaining a secure environment in order to increase the stability of the country. In addition, EUFOR supports the collective and combined training of the national Armed Forces, with NATO standards, as a primary parameter for effective deterrence.
Spain has been present since 1992, when the Security Council authorized the deployment of UNPROFOR, which changed in its nature, entity and leading organization during its thirty years in BiH.
European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia)
In February 2010, the European Union approved the military mission European Union Training Mission in Somalia, EUTM Somalia. The operation is non-executive in nature, and contributes to the reform of the Somali security sector by advising the Defence authorities and training military units of the Somali Army.
Six EU Member States and two other non-EU third States contribute to EUTM Somalia. Spain is the second contributing nation after Italy, and occupies the most important positions in the mission, both in the headquarters and in the field of advice for the development of the security sector in Somalia and the training of its military.
European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Somalia. Operation Atalanta
Operation Atalanta, under the flag of the European Union, contributes to maintaining security in the waters of the Gulf of Aden and Somalia, through the protection of World Food Program (WFP) ships and vulnerable maritime traffic, in addition to combating piracy and armed assaults at sea. On the other hand, and as a secondary mission and at the request of the EU, it cooperates with other EU missions and instruments in Somalia.
At the present time, and thanks to the international effort —especially Operation Atalanta—, pirate activity is very contained, but new attacks cannot be ruled out as there are groups with the capacity to carry them out.
Since the beginning of Operation Atalanta in 2008, Spain has participated uninterruptedly with naval and air resources. In addition, since March 29, 2019, Spain has led the operation through the Operation Headquarters in Rota; and contributes with a P-3 Orion surveillance, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft deployed in Djibouti; and with the Santa María Frigate, which also embarks the International General Staff (FHQ), led by Spain.
European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali)
In January 2013, the Government approved the Spanish contribution to the EUTM Mali mission. This non-executive mission provides advice regarding the reform of the security sector (Armed Forces) in Bamako, as well as training to military units of the Malian Army at the Koulikoro base.
EUTM Mali is currently in its fifth term, which ends in May 2024 (the first time the mandate has been extended for a period of four years). The Mission’s area of operations has been expanded to cover all of Mali.
Spain is the largest contributor of forces to EUTM Mali, and the vast majority of Spanish troops are deployed at the Koulikoro base, as well as at the mission headquarters in the capital Bamako.
For the third time, Spain leads the Mission (six months) since December 16, 2022.
European Union Training Mission in the Central African Republic (EUTM RCA)
EUTM RCA is a non-executive operation of the European Union that deployed in 2016, and whose mission is to advise, both at the strategic and operational level, for the reconstruction of the Central African Armed Forces and cooperation with the structures of the Ministry of Defence, as well as the training of military units.
In September 2020, the third term of the operation began, with an expected duration of two years. The objective of this period is to consolidate the achievements and expand its geographical scope to the west of the country.
European Union Training Mission in Mozambique (EUTM Mozambique). Spanish observers
In 2021, the European Union launched a non-executive military training mission in Mozambique (EUTM Mozambique) —with an initial mandate of two years— to provide training to the Mozambican armed forces, with the aim of restoring security in the province of Cabo Delgado (attacked by jihadists since 2017) and protect the population.
The Spanish Armed Forces deploy military observers to collaborate with the country in its fight against international terrorism.
OPERATION “GLOBAL COALITION FOR THE DEFEAT OF DAESH” IN IRAQ
Inherent Resolve Mission in Iraq
Currently, the mission of the Combined Joint Forces in Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) is to defeat Daesh in designated areas of Iraq and establish the appropriate conditions for operations aimed at increasing the regional stability.
Spain contributes with soldiers in training missions and training of Iraqi counterterrorism service units in Baghdad. Also part of the Spanish contingent in Iraq are the soldiers belonging to the Task Force Toro (Helicopter Unit) deployed at the Al Asad airbase whose main mission is to provide air transport to the Coalition troops, for which it has Cougar helicopters.
NATO MISSIONS AND OPERATIONS
Operation Support Iraq. NATO Mission-Iraq (NM-I)
The NATO Mission-Iraq (NM-I) is the second operation with Spanish participation in Iraq. It is oriented towards advising the Government of Iraq in the field of the National Security structure, and focused on developing its military professional education system, including training support actions.
Spanish participation began in October 2018, and it develops its advisory activities in Baghdad, while it provides military training in Baghdad and Besmaya.
Reinforced Advanced Presence in Latvia. NATO eFP LATVIA
Operation eFP Latvia has the mission of deploying, integrating and sustaining a mechanised/armoured force within the NATO Forward Presence, in order to contribute to the deterrence of the Alliance, and where appropriate, to the defence and protection of Latvia, of any other Baltic country or of Poland.
The NATO Battle Group in the eFP mission deployed in Latvia —in which the Spanish unit is included— ensures a credible and effective deterrence against any threat to our Baltic ally, and is in a position to act in the defence of Latvia if was necessary.
The Spanish contribution to the NATO Battle Group in Latvia is materialized through the troops that make up a Mechanized Tactical Subgroup, a Sapper Unit, various positions within the Battle Group Staff and the Latvian Brigade, and a Logistics Unit. In addition, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the express request of NATO, Spain reinforced its deployment capabilities: a Field Artillery Unit, an Engineers Unit (Sappers and Support), and logistical support elements.
South Air Police Reinforcement. NATO eAP South
The Spanish Armed Forces are a regular collaborator of the NATO Air Police in addition to patrolling the national airspace under the control of the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejón. Normally it deploys a Spanish detachment in Lithuania, but now the Spanish rotation does not correspond.
In Romania, the eight Spanish F-18s, together with the Romanian F-16s located in Fetesti, will fly together with the four Italian Eurofighters from the Mihail Kogalniceanu base. Its mission is to protect allied airspace and maintain an adequate level of training under NATO’s eAP mission. The ‘Viespe’ Detachment will remain on this mission until March 31, 2023, reinforcing the Eastern flank of the Alliance in surveillance, deterrence and air defence missions.
In addition, a TPS-43M Radar has been deployed (in October), also in Romania, from the Mobile Air Control Group (GRUMOCA). It forms the ‘Tigru’ Detachment –under the national operational control of the Operations Command–, which is located in the Schitu barracks (Romania).
Operation to support Turkey. Operation Active Fence
Since January 2013, due to the crisis in Syria and at the request of Turkey, NATO decided to increase Air Defence capabilities in this country by deploying Patriot units to carry out defence operations against ballistic missiles launched from Syria. Spain complied with the relief request made by NATO and, since January 2015, has maintained a Patriot battery in Turkey. The mission is defensive only.
The Spanish unit is deployed in the city of Adana, the fifth Turkish city by population, with approximately two million inhabitants, located 120 km north of the border with Syria.
NATO permanent naval groups. Permanent naval groups SNMG 1 and 2 – Permanent naval anti-mine groups SNMCMG 1 and 2
The NATO Permanent Maritime Groups (SNMG 1 and 2) are a multinational maritime force, made up of ships from various allied countries. These ships are permanently available to NATO to carry out different tasks ranging from exercises to operational missions. They also help establish Alliance presence, demonstrate solidarity, conduct regular diplomatic visits to different countries, support partner engagement, and provide a wide range of maritime military capabilities to ongoing missions. They function according to the operational needs of the Alliance, thus helping to maintain optimum flexibility. Their composition varies and they are usually made up of between two and six ships from NATO countries.
Currently, the frigate ‘Cristóbal Colón’ (F-105) is carrying out surveillance activities in the Western Mediterranean together with the rest of the ships of the Permanent Naval Group of NATO number 2 (SNMG-2).
NATO’s Permanent Mine Countermeasure Groups (SNMCMG 1 and 2) are multinational forces primarily engaged in search and removal operations for explosive devices. SNMCMG2 also conducts historic artifact removal operations to minimize the threat from mines dating back to World War II. Both SNMCMG groupings are key assets of the NATO Response Force and can perform a wide range of roles, from humanitarian tasks to operations. They can deploy very quickly and are often the first assets to enter a theatre of operations. The presence of Spain is habitual and develops periodically, although at the moment there are no Spanish ships in the Permanent Groups of NATO Countermine Measures.
NATIONAL MISSIONS AND OPERATIONS ABROAD
Operation Support Mali (A/M). Detachment ‘Ivory’ (Senegal)
By agreement of the Council of Ministers in January 2013, Spain decides, given the advance of terrorist groups and the express request of the Malian authorities, to support the French effort in resolving the crisis in Mali, materialized as Operation A/M for the Spanish Armed Forces.
Currently, the mission of the Marfil Tactical Air Detachment (DAT Marfil) focuses on contributing to air transport in support of the United Nations (MINUSMA and MINUSCA), European Union (EUTM-MALI and EUTM-RCA), and G5 Sahel missions. And from France in the Sahelian region.
At this moment, Spain deploys 2 C-295 aircraft. The DAT ‘Ivory’ operates in 19 countries, covering an extension of more than 5,200 km.
Spanish Antarctic Campaign. Gabriel de Castilla Base and Hespérides Ship
The Spanish Antarctic Campaign —which this year reaches its XXXVI edition— constitutes a model of cooperation between different public and private institutions at the service of R+D+i within the framework of the State Plan for Scientific, Technical and Innovation Research. The coordination of the activities of the different organizations during the Antarctic campaigns is carried out by the Spanish Polar Committee. Thus, civilians (for the most part, scientists and researchers) and the military collaborate closely carrying out research and experimentation projects, in the only virgin continent, free of political and economic tensions and dedicated to science.
In addition to the Army, which manages the Gabriel de Castilla BAE on Deception Island, the operational entities participating in these activities are the CSIC’s Marine Technology Unit (UTM), which manages the “Juan Carlos I” BAE, in the Livingston Island and coordinates the general logistics of the Antarctic Campaign; and the Navy, which operates the Oceanographic Research Vessel (BIO) “Hespérides”.
On the other hand, the Oceanographic Research Ship “Hespérides” participates in the Campaign. It is the only Spanish ship designed to carry out multidisciplinary scientific research in all the seas and oceans of the planet, including the Arctic and Antarctic Zones. The ship provides logistical support to the crews of the Spanish Antarctic Bases “Juan Carlos I” and “Gabriel de Castilla”.