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Kabul faces broad push to take military lead

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment

By Guy Dinmore in Rome and Matthew Green in Islamabad, Published: October 18 2010

Envoys from more than 40 countries and international organisations have launched an expanded diplomatic push for Kabul to take over the leadership of military operations in Afghanistan from Nato.

The special representatives from 39 governments – including Iran’s for the first time – and four international organisations have also endorsed Kabul’s attempts to negotiate directly with the Taliban.

“We are singing from the same song-sheet,” Michael Steiner, Germany’s envoy, told reporters in Rome during day-long talks on Monday, stressing that Iran was welcome at the table and that participants included 10 Islamic countries. Read more…

Afghanistan

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

By Guy Dinmore, pubblicato su l’Interprete Internazionale

As parallels with the Vietnam war become harder to ignore, the US faces a critical month ahead in Afghanistan. On the one hand the military build-up continues in Kandahar to take the fight to the Taliban’s heartland, while the corrupt government of President Hamid Karzai approaches a key moment in offering the insurgents a way out of protracted war.

With support for the war among US and European voters steadily diminishing, Karzai is treading a fine line in trying to shed his image in Afghanistan as an ineffectual puppet of the Americans. He has angered Washington with wild accusations that western officials and the UN conspired to commit the fraud in last year’s presidential elections (which his own people blatantly manipulated), and with his warnings that foreign interference risks legitimising the Taliban. Read more…

Italy to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: December 3 2009

Italy is to send about 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan and reduce its peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and Lebanon by a similar number, Ignazio La Russa, Italian defence minister, said in a newspaper interview published on Thursday.

Italy had already signalled to the Obama administration that it would respond positively to its requests for reinforcements in Afghanistan, but Mr La Russa was the first minister to reveal how many.

He told newspaper Corriere della Sera that a report of Rome sending 1,500 extra troops was an exaggeration and that about 1,000 would be more accurate. Details would be ironed out in talks with Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, and the majority of soldiers would arrive in the second half of next year, he said.

Italy has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, most based in the north-west. Read more…

Afghan legal progress sparks hope

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

By Guy Dinmore in Rome
Published on December 3 2009

For Afzal Nooristani, an Afghan lawyer who heads a non-government organisation providing legal aid services, sending 30,000 more troops to fight an “invisible” enemy is not the solution in the war against the Taliban.

But still he sees hopeful signs of progress, mostly in the cultural mindset of the younger generation, and gradual improvements in the judicial system with the emergence of younger judges and the training of many women lawyers.

“Encouraging people to focus more on cultural issues and providing more jobs and a stronger economy will give more results than sending more troops,” Mr Nooristani says on a visit to Rome.

“The Taliban is somehow invisible. At night he is a Taleb. During the day you do not know who you are talking to… Now there will be as many troops as the Russians had, but fighting in the dark is very difficult.” Read more…

Obama asks Italy for more troops

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

By Guy Dinmore in Rome
Published: November 26 2009

Italy’s centre-right government signalled on Wednesday its readiness to send more troops to Afghanistan after Barack Obama telephoned Silvio Berlusconi to explain the new US strategy and ask for more help.

The Italian prime minister’s office said Mr Berlusconi “responded positively” to the US president’s request for a “reinforcement of the international effort” in Afghanistan.

Robert Gates, US defence secretary, also called Ignazio La Russa, his Italian counterpart. Mr La Russa told reporters Italy was ready to increase its presence in Afghanistan but had not decided by how much. Read more…

Italy dismisses claims it bribed Taliban commanders

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: October 16 2009

Italy’s centre-right government yesterday said it had “never authorised nor consented to any form of payment” to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Rome was responding to a report by The Times newspaper in the UK that the Italian intelligence service had regularly given tens of thousands of dollars to Taliban commanders in Sarobi, east of Kabul, and Herat, in the north-west, to buy peace for the Italian contingent.

The Times reports claimed that Taliban commanders were secretly paid tens of thousands of dollars by Italian officials before their troops were replaced in Sarobi by French forces.

The French had only been in charge of the area for four weeks when 10 soldiers were killed in an ambush in August 2008, in one of the biggest single losses of life for Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Twenty-one Italian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, six in a single attack in Kabul last month.

Ignazio La Russa, Italy’s defence minister, called the report “absolute garbage”.

In a statement, the government said that it was not aware of any payments to the Taliban made by the previous centre-left government, which left office in May 2008.

Italy mourns troops killed in Afghanistan

September 21, 2009 Comments off

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

Published: September 21
Italy on Monday held a state funeral for six soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul amid scenes of grief and confusion reflecting a country divided over the future of its military mission.

The deaths of the six paratroopers, their armoured column caught in an ambush in central Kabul last week was the worst single attack on Italian forces in Afghanistan, taking the country’s military death toll to 21 Read more…