Italy Likely to Prolong Military Presence in Afghanistan – Matteo Renzi

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Italy is deciding on whether to go along with the United States and keep its servicemen in Afghanistan, where security continues to be compromised amid a threat from radicals, including the Islamic State, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said.

On Thursday, US President Barack Obama announced the United States would keep a troop presence of 9,800 in Afghanistan, drawing those levels down to 5,500 by 2016 or 2017.

The Italian government is “deciding in these hours” what position to adopt on Afghanistan in the wake of Obama’s announcement, Renzi said on Friday as quoted by the Gazzetta del Sud Italian newspaper.

Speaking at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Renzi stressed that any decision regarding Italy’s military presence in Afghanistan would have to be made by parliament, but suggested that Italy was going to follow in Washington’s footsteps and prolong its Afghan mission for one more year.

According to Italy’s Defense Ministry, about 750 Italian servicemen are currently stationed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO Resolute Support mission.

The follow-up mission was launched in January 2015 to provide training and assistance to Afghan security forces after NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command mission ended in 2014.

Afghanistan continues to be in a state of political and social turmoil as the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) radicals take advantage of instability in the country, which has persisted since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The United States originally planned to end its military presence in Afghanistan by December 2016.

 

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