The Spanish ministry of defense has announced that it is opening more positions to women. It is part of a wider effort to strengthen the country’s ability to participate in counterterrorism missions.

The announcement comes as Minister of Defense Margarita Robles visited the Spanish army’s command center for special operations in Rabasa, near Alicante. While there, Robles emphasized the importance that the military not only be ready in a technical capacity, but also in intelligence gathering and relationship building “by understanding the terrorists’ social and cultural domain.”

Some women have already joined elite units while other tasks, such as searching females, are already reserved for them. The increased recruitment of women is intended to enhance special operation forces’ ability to engage locals, particularly in Islamic countries. Conservative societies pose a particular challenge for male operators who are unable to interact with local women. Female soldiers are seen as a possible gateway of gathering intelligence in sensitive conflict zones.

Having opened up most jobs to women in 1999, women currently make up 12.7% of the Spanish military, which is above the NATO average of 11.1%. While it still lags behind Hungary (19.3%) and the United States (16.2%), it is ahead of other member states such as Germany and the United Kingdom.