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Italy to do its part in Afghanistan

Frattini hopes other allies will do the same

02 December, 16:23
Italy to do its part in Afghanistan

(ANSA) - Rome, December 2 - Italy agrees with the new American strategy on Afghanistan and is ready to do its part, although it is still too early to say how many more troops it will commit, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Wednesday.

United States President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday night that an additional 30,000 American troops would be sent to Afghanistan and that he hoped NATO allies would also commit more forces.

He also said that the allied commitment in Afghanistan was not "open-ended" and that he would begin to withdraw troops starting in mid-2011.

"Italy will make its contribution and we hope the other allies will do as much as we do," Frattini said.

Up till now "we have seen some uncertainty on France's part, while Germany has decided to postpone any decision and Britain has made what appears to be a minimum commitment," he observed. Frattini said he agreed with Obama on the need to disengage from Afghanistan "little by little as that nation shows it can take care of its own security. But this cannot take forever, by 2013 at the latest".

On Tuesday, Frattini had already all but confirmed Italy was ready to send more troops and said ''Afghanistan is a test case of the Atlantic Alliance's credibility. It is evident that Italy will have to finish the job it began with NATO and contribute even more than it has in the past. This because we are not only a member of the Alliance, as is the United States, but also of her international community".

''We're going to do our part but the numbers will depend on their objectives and timeframe,'' he added.

In a related development, NATO Secretary General Ander Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday that the Atlantic Alliance would send "at least an additional 5,000 troops to Afghanistan".

He added that he expected some NATO members to announce their troop increases over the next few days while others, like Germany, would wait until the international conference on Afghanistan in London on January 28.

"I am confident that we will have at least an additional 5,000 troops and perhaps several thousand more," he said.

The NATO chief confirmed that the final goal of the mission was placing security in the hands of the Afghan people "and we will not leave any province or district unless we are convinced local forces can handle things on their own".

"What is important is that the mission in Afghanistan remains one of the Alliance as a whole," he added.

Italy currently has some 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, plus some 400 more which were sent to boost security during this year's elections there. It is believed that Washington has asked that it deploy a further 1,500.

Last week, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa indicated that the additional troops would be found by downsizing Italy's presence in missions in Kosovo and Lebanon, thus keeping the total number of forces employed abroad at the same level.

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