Italy ready to send up to 100 extra trainers to Afghanistan
Italy is ready to send "up to 100" extra trainers for Afghanistan's police and army, in order to help fill the shortages that plague NATO's mission in the country, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said Thursday.
La Russa was speaking on the margins of a NATO defence and foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels, where the subject of Afghanistan was not officially on the agenda, DPA reported.
"The final decision rests upon Prime Minister (Silvio) Berlusconi, but the Ministry of Defence and me personally are ready to send up to 100 trainers, with no significant increases in cost," La Russa told reporters.
Italy's military presence in Afghanistan is a sensitive issue domestically - especially in the wake of the killing of four Italian soldiers at the weekend, which brought to 34 the total death toll for Italian armed forces in Afghanistan.
The country currently contributes more than 3,500 troops, including some 550 trainers, to NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
NATO is looking to send several hundred extra trainers to Afghanistan by next year, as it labours to hand over more and more responsibilities to the Afghan security forces in preparation for a gradual withdrawal of troops, due to start in July 2011.