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Italian prime minister pledges long-term commitment to Afghanistan

Italian prime minister pledges long-term commitment to Afghanistan

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi echoed recent pledges by French and Australian leaders, as the Afghan presidential palace said he emphasized his county's long-term commitment to Afghanistan in a meeting Sunday with President Hamid Karzai.
Italy has about 2,400 troops in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the country, mostly in the western province of Herat, where there is little violence. Italy has been criticized for not letting its troops be deployed in more violent areas in the south and east.
Prodi's visit follows those by the leaders of France and Australia, who met with Karzai on Saturday. Each leader pledged that his country was committed to Afghanistan for the long term _ promises that came as the governments of Canada and the Netherlands debate how long their troops will stay in the country.
Prodi and Karzai talked about advances in Afghanistan's health and education sectors since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Karzai also told Prodi that Afghanistan needs more international business investment, Karzai's presidential palace said in a statement.
The Italian leader later traveled to Herat to meet with troops and local government leaders, the palace said. He also met with U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, commander of the NATO force in Afghanistan.
Prodi's visit followed those by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who also met with their countries' troops.
Sarkozy told Karzai that France has a long-term political and military interest in Afghanistan _ apparently signaling that French troops would not pull out of the country soon.
Sarkozy met with some of the 1,300 French troops who are mostly stationed in an area of the capital, Kabul, as part of NATO's military force in the country.
Rudd visited some of the 900 Australian troops stationed in Uruzgan province, site of fierce battles this year.
The Australian leader, whose party was elected in late November, said he wanted to make an early visit to the troops and to confirm Australia's commitment to Afghanistan.
This year has been Afghanistan's most violent since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power. More than 6,300 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count.
In the latest violence, Afghan army soldiers killed "more than 10" enemy fighters in Kandahar province's Mayinshen district Friday, said a Defense Ministry statement released Sunday.
In the east, three civilians died after their vehicle hit a mine, said Khost provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub.


Updated : 2021-06-13 19:39 GMT+08:00