ITALY NEWS

Trouble with Taliban

Nato calls for Italian troops in Afghanistan
(issue no. 35/2006 / June 15, 2006)
NATOs Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer has asked the Italian government to reinforce its 1,400-strong contingent in Afghanistan to support NATO troops moving south in July, the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera reported recently. Between now and the end of July, we want to be ready to take control of the southern provinces from US-led coalition troops, he told the newspaper in an interview last Saturday.

NATOs troops, already deployed in the north and west of the country, will be entering a destitute area where the Taliban are traditionally active. We are entering a difficult zone, explained the NATO chief. There is resistance from the Taliban, whom we must make understand that we mean business. We are going to double the force, to 6,000 menan increase from the 3,000 serving in the current US-led force. De Hoop Scheffer recently met Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Foreign Minister Massimo DAlema on Friday to discuss the operation, but no details of their talks were released to the media. De Hoop Scheffer told the paper: We discussed with your government what more it could do. We need more planes. If Italy were to ask whether we want more troops and special forces, I would say yes, certainly, but I do not want to join in Italys internal discussions.

Italy has 1,400 soldiers serving in NATOs International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), 1,000 of them in Kabul and 400 in Herat. Two Italian soldiers were killed and four injured on May 5 in Kabul by a roadside bomb. Several radical leftwing groups in Prodis coalition gov-ernment are calling for Italy to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. The Taliban, ousted from power by the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, have stepped up attacks in recent months across the south of the country.
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