Italy to send extra 1,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2010

08:28, December 04, 2009      

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Italy will send around 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan next year, Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said in an interview with leading daily Corriere della Sera published on Thursday.

The minister explained that "the extra Italian troops will be sent in the second half of 2010 and will be redeployed from other missions in Kosovo and Lebanon," thus keeping the number of military forces abroad at the same level.

His announcement follows Foreign Minister Franco Frattini's pledge on Wednesday to support the U.S. government's new strategy in Afghanistan.

Frattini said Italy would "do its part" to back U.S. President Barack Obama's plan of an initial troop surge of 30,000 soldiers in the insurgency-ravaged country, which would be followed by a gradual disengagement starting from 2011.

The foreign minister pointed out that Italy would start withdrawal from Afghanistan "little by little as that nation showsit can take care of its own security," setting 2013 as the target-year at the latest.

La Russa said "the exact number of troops to be sent will be agreed in the next few days at a meeting between Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But the figure will be around 1,000."

Obama on Tuesday night announced the U.S. surge and called on NATO allies to boost their deployments. NATO Secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently urged members states to contribute at least 5,000 extra forces next year.

Italy currently has around 3,500 troops serving in Afghanistan, mainly in the west of the country.

Source: Xinhua
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