Increased Engagement in the Mediterranean Area, Military Presence in Iraq Halved
(Source: Italian Ministry of Defence; issued Jan 15, 2018)
ROME --- Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti refers before the Senate on the international missions authorized in 2017 and their extension in 2018, and missions that will kick-off this year.

Italy is redefining its international military engagements, investing more resources in close-by crisis areas, whose impact on our national strategic interests is more direct.

In today's hearing before the Joint Senate and Chamber of Deputies Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee on international military missions, Minister Roberta Pinotti has clearly stated that the path that was undertaken leads to a gradual but steady implementation of the medium and long term strategy described in the White Paper on International Security and Defence, directed increasingly toward the Mediterranean area.

"We intend to concentrate our resources in the areas of crisis which have a more direct impact on Italy's strategic and security interests, without, however, forgetting the solidarity principles that, given our responsibilities within the international context, we will continue to comply with". "The core of our intervention will be the enlarged Mediterranean area, from the Balkans to the SaheI and the Horn of Africa", Roberta Pinotti said, also touching upon the establishment of a joint "G-5 Sahel" force supported by the UN.

As regards Niger, Italy will kick off a bilateral assistance mission - following a specific request submitted by the Nigerian government last November- that will focus on training local security forces in order to make them able to implement their capacities, taking into consideration that a large part of illegal trafficking toward the Mediterranean goes through Niger. Once the mission is fully implemented, it will engage 470 military at the most, while 120 troops will be deployed during the initial phase. Italy's average yearly engagement in the country will amount to 250 military.

In Libya, where domestic problems continue, ongoing missions – medical assistance, refurbishment of Naval Forces vessels and equipment, training of respective crews, (already launched in 2017), refurbishment of land vehicles and aircraft and respective infrastructures, personnel training- will converge into one single mission. This aims at streamlining and improving Italy's action, as well as producing a gradual improvement of local authorities' ability to conduct essential tasks – such as territorial control and control of national waters- autonomously. The number of Italian military personnel will be slightly increased to 400 (currently 375).

Italy - under NATO aegis- will also be engaged in Tunisia, a country "…that, for obvious reasons, cannot be left alone", the Minister said, recalling that we had expressed our willingness to deploy a contingent in that country.

If, on the one hand, greater attention is bestowed on Euro-Mediterranean scenarios, Italy is not withdrawing from other theatres, even if a drawdown will be implemented in some of them.

In Iraq – where Italy has given a substantial contribution to defeating Daesh by helping to rebuild the Iraqi security forces, including the Kurdish component- the current 1,400 troops will be gradually reduced to half the current number. The Italian contingent has trained 30,000 Iraqi military and 10,000 Kurdish ones: this makes up 25% of the total number of Iraqi troops trained by foreign countries. We will continue to provide our support, focusing on training the security forces that will be engaged in controlling areas liberated from the ruling of the so-called Caliphate.

As for Afghanistan, Italy aims at reducing its presence by 200 military, down from the current 900, with a gradual reduction over time if the situation allows it.

The Minister also briefly touched upon Italy's engagement in Lebanon (where Italian military are deployed both within the framework of UNIFIL and with the bilateral mission) and Kosovo.

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