In early December, 25 of the 43 Allies and Partners in Afghanistan committed around 7000 troops for 2010 to support the US. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that this meeting launched a new phase in this mission: he does not expect instant results, “but,” he said, “with the right approach and the right resources we will succeed and we have both.”
This new approach has been particularly welcomed by the Italian government. Indeed, of the 7000 troops, the highest contingent of soldiers to support the US surge will be sent by Italy. Currently, there are about 2,500 Italian troops in Afghanistan, based mostly in the northwest. According to the Defense Minister, Ignazio La Russa, Italy will reduce its peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and Lebanon in order to commit 1,000 soldiers to Afghanistan. This positive reaction to the requests for reinforcements in comes despite the divisive nature of this unpopular war for Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition and among the Italian public. One must not forget that in September the Northern League, a junior partner in the government, called for all troops to be brought back by Christmas after six soldiers died in a Kabul ambush. In this context, foreign policy matters and Berlusconi’s realpolitik approach supersede domestic policy disagreements.
This is the sign with which Berlusconi intends to demonstrate that on issues of foreign policy, he shares in the vision and expectations of US President Barack Obama. “I agree with the strategy announced by Obama: a regional approach, in which Pakistan will play a key role; a reinforcement of civilian activities that will protect the progress made in many sectors; and an additional military effort that will make disengagement easier in the future,” the Italian Premier said. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that it is an important test of NATO's credibility, and it will confirm the role of Italy within the transatlantic relationship.
Indeed, to demonstrate the complete involvement of the Italian government in the Transatlantic Alliance, on 23 November the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Atlantic Committee hosted an event to develop recommendations for NATO’s new Strategic Concept. Furthermore, on the 25 November, during an official meeting between Berlusconi and Secretary General Rasmussen, the Italian Premier confirmed his support for NATO’s operation in Afghanistan.
With the decision to send more soldiers in a complicated scenario like Afghanistan, Berlusconi has confirmed the complete commitment of the Italian government to NATO. Furthermore, being that the Afghan situation is very hard and dangerous, Rome has underscored its own importance and relevance as a powerful nation. Indeed, sending a major number of soldiers to Afghanistan means that Italy is fully participating in a mission of great international responsibility. “Italy will do its part, well aware that in the conflict in Afghanistan what is at stake is not only the future of the Afghan people, but also the credibility of NATO, the battle against terrorism and, as a result, our own security,” the Italian Premier said. The aim is to send more soldiers to stabilize the internal situation in Afghanistan and to avoid the threat of terrorism for the international community. From this point of view the decision of Berlusconi underlined the importance and the value of the Italian government in the field of the international security.
Donatella Scatamacchia graduated from the University of Naples with a MA in international relations and is currently working with the Italian Delegation at NATO Headquarters.
Related Articles on Atlantic Community:
- Oreste Foppiani: Italy's New Role as a Major Transatlantic Partner
- Sebastian Bruns: Rasmussen Set to Reinvigorate NATO
- Thomas Rausch: And 30,000 it is