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Frattini reports on Afghan mission

Stabilization needs political solution, foreign minister says

10 December, 16:48
Frattini reports on Afghan mission (ANSA) - Rome, December 10 - The planned military surge in Afghanistan will not be enough to stabilise that country because what is needed there is a political solution, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Thursday.

Speaking before a joint session of the lower house foreign and defense committees, Frattini added that the final aim of the allied effort in Afghanistan "is to hand over to the Afghan people the control and destiny of their own country".

The increase in forces decided last month by the United States, NATO and other countries present in Afghanistan, the foreign minister observed, "is not an end in itself. There is no such thing as a military solution for stabilization. the only solution possible there is a political one".

According to Frattini, a political solution may will involve dialogue and accords with the Taliban "but only those who are not linked with al Qaeda and who are ready to renounce violence and accept the new Afghan constitution".

Italy, the foreign minister said, "fully supports any political initiative which leads to full national reconciliation in Afghanistan".

In order for such an initiative to have success, he added, "the insurgents must be guaranteed employment in return for returning to the rule of law".

Frattini confirmed that allied forces in Afghanistan will initiate their disengagement in July 2011, a date set by US President Barack Obama, but added that "what we need now a clear road map with a timetable and benchmarks which must achieved". Aside from participating in the military surge, Italy also intends to bolster its civil commitments in Afghanistan "which will continue even after the military effort is over," the foreign minister told the MPs.

These include aid and assistance to agriculture, in order to offer Afghan farmers an alternative to opium production, and training programs run by Italy's Finance Guard for Afghan border and customs police.

DEFENSE MINISTER LA RUSSA PUTS 4,000-MAN CEILING ON CONTINGENT. Also appearing before the committee joint session on Thursday was Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa who said that Italy's increased military presence in Afghanistan will never be more than 4,000 men and should average out at 3,700 soldiers by the second half of next year.

Last month Italy agreed to boost its troop strength in Afghanistan by some 1,000 soldiers plus 200 members of the Carabinieri police corps, from its current level of 2,795.

According to the defense minister, NATO had initially asked Italy to send an additional 1,600 men to Afghanistan.

La Russa confirmed that the additional forces will be found by reducing Italy's role in international missions in Lebanon and Kosovo. By October of next year, the defense minister told the MPs, Italy will cut its presence in Kosovo by some 1,300 men while 200 soldiers will be withdrawn from Lebanon.

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