Brussels: Spain will withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said.

Zapatero made the announcement following the European Union summit in Brussels on Friday. He said the gradual return of the 1,500 Spanish soldiers currently in Afghanistan will begin in the first quarter of 2012.

At that time, about 10 percent of the contingent will leave for home.

In the first half of 2013, another 40 percent will be withdrawn, and in 2014, Spain will cease to have military presence in Afghanistan, Zapatero said.

He, however, did not specify by which date in 2014 the withdrawal would be completed.

"That would be the plan, I repeat, bearing in mind the evolution of circumstances, but the plan is going ahead pretty much on those terms," he said.

Starting this summer, Spain will begin the transfer of authority to Afghan security forces in Herat province.

The Spanish contingent stationed in that zone - some 500 troops - will then join the 1,000-strong unit in Badghis province.

As the Afghan police and military begin carrying out their security responsibilities, Spanish troops will be steadily withdrawn from that province, officials said.

A total of 92 Spanish military personnel have died since the Afghanistan mission began in 2002.

US President Barack Obama announced earlier that this year 10,000 American soldiers will return from Afghanistan and by September 2012, 33,000 US troops will have been withdrawn.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said that his country will withdraw its troops "proportionately and according to a calendar comparable" to the US.

(Agencies)