The Italian Almanac
Italian News - March 4
Italian soldiers have begun arriving in western Afghanistan under plans for NATO troops to gradually relieve U.S. forces across the country. Italy is taking over a base in the main western city of Herat from the United States. Spain and Lithuania are to set up new bases in adjoining Badghis and Ghor provinces, while an existing U.S. outpost in Farah will also come under NATO control.
An advance party of Italian soldiers has "already started coming in," said Lt. Gen. Ethem Erdagi, the Turkish commander of the International Security Assistance Force which has supported Afghanistan's feeble government since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. NATO officials said several dozen Italians were in Herat, and Erdagi said the takeover of the region should be complete by June.
NATO planners are working on how they might take over the south of the country, where militants continue to attack Afghan and U.S. troops, and eventually the east, too. But it remains unclear whether NATO troops will maintain the aggressive operations of American forces.