The Italian Almanac

Afghanistan

Italian News - August 5

Italy on Thursday assumed command of the NATO's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) from Turkey and will hold it for the next nine months. The change of command took place at a ceremony here attended by Italian Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini and Afghan Preident Hamid Karzai.

Isaf operates under a joint mandate from NATO and the United Nations and since August 2003 has supported the efforts of the Kabul government to stabilise Afghanistan and ensure security. General Mauro Del Vecchio is the new Isaf leader.

Italy takes over at a crucial time for the normalization of this country. Over the next nine months, in fact, parliamentary elections will be held and NATO expects to extend its control over the country's southern regions. Isaf currently has a total of over 8,000 troops from 36 nations, but NATO will send in an additional 2,000 soldiers to monitor the September 18 elections which will bring to more than 10,000 the number who will be under Del Vecchio's command.

The expansion of NATO in the south will be accomplished using the successful model of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), small squads of civilian and military personnel deployed to promote security and development and help bring the area under the control of the central government. Other tasks facing Isaf over the coming months will be combating drug trafficking, training the police force and Afghanistan's new army, helping to reform the judicial system and disarming the rival militias.