Salvadoran Troops Return From Iraq, Ending A Five-Year Mission

By Dialogo
February 10, 2009

A contingent of 200 Salvadoran troops returned home from Iraq on Saturday, having ‎finished security and reconstruction tasks that took place over five and a half years, ‎official sources reported.‎ Early on Saturday, after arriving at the Comalapa Air Base, 44 kilometers southeast of ‎San Salvador, soldiers of the Special Forces belonging to the eleventh contingent of the ‎Cuscatlán Battalion had medical checkups after turning in their weapons and equipment.‎ The Comalapa Base soldiers were moved to San Salvador in approximately twenty ‎trucks, which displayed the flags of El Salvador and Iraq.‎ Upon entering the capital, the troop stopped before the image of Cristo de La Paz, where ‎the military bishop, Fabio Colindres, conducted a liturgical act of "thanksgiving."‎ During their stay in the Iraqi cities of Najaf, Diwaniyah, Al Hillah, and Al Kut, the ‎Salvadoran troops suffered five deaths and twenty injuries.‎ Colonel César Acosta, the battalion commander, said he felt "proud to have successfully ‎completed the mission."‎ During their presence in Iraq, according to Colonel Acosta, Salvadoran troops worked on ‎‎353 reconstructions and 191 humanitarian aid projects, which benefitted seven million ‎Iraqis.‎ ‎"It was a great experience to have shared the effort and to work shoulder to shoulder with ‎many countries, and to work toward a single goal: to provide stability and support the ‎peace in Iraq," said Colonel Acosta to the AFP.‎ The soldiers hugged their families at the end of the official ceremony at the Comando de ‎Apoyo de Transmisiones (CATFA) as music and songs from the Salvadoran Cuscatlán ‎Battalion played.‎ The soldiers presented their families with souvenirs, including figurines of camels and ‎bronze plates with images of historic monuments in Iraq.‎ Major and pilot Alejandro Coto said he felt "tremendous joy to be returning unharmed" ‎and reunited with his family.‎ Sergeant Eduardo Argueta said that his stay in Iraq has left him with “profound ‎emotions” after seeing such “amazing poverty” in a country so rich in oil.‎ In August of 2003, according to an agreement with the United States, El Salvador sent its ‎troops to Iraq, but left after two months under the UN Security Council resolution 1546, ‎which gave the interim Iraqi government full functions and authority.‎ Salvadoran troops began their withdrawal after December 23rd, when President Elias ‎Antonio Saca announced the end of the mission under UN Security Council resolution ‎‎1959, which ordered the termination of the peace force.‎ El Salvador was the only Latin American country that remained in Iraq until the end of ‎the UN mandate on December 31st.‎