Italy will send around 1000 additional soldiers to Afghanistan as part of US President Barack Obama’s planned troop surge, Italian Defense Minister Ignacio La Russa said in an interview today.
Responding to Italian media reports that Italy would send 1500 men, La Russa told Corriere della Sera newspaper: "That is just a hypothesis, a maximum quota which we would never reach. We are below that figure."
He said an exact number would be agreed in the coming days at a meeting between Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Asked if the actual figure was likely to be around 1000, he replied: "Yes, I’d say so."
An aide to the defense minister told Reuters that at present an increase of between 800 and 1000 troops was being discussed, which would be reached gradually in 2010 by withdrawing soldiers from peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and Lebanon.