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Italy's Prodi pays Christmas visit to Afghanistan

European Prime Minister meets with troops and Afghan counterpart to show support

Italy's Prodi pays Christmas visit to Afghanistan

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi visited Afghanistan yesterday for talks with President Hamid Karzai and Italian troops taking part in an international effort against a growing and deadly insurgency.
Prodi's Christmastime visit follows that Saturday of the leaders of France and Australia, who also have troops in NATO's International Security Assistance Force working against the intensifying Taliban-led insurgency.
"He came to visit the Italian troops and he will meet the president," an Italian embassy official said.
The prime minister started his visit in Kabul and was due to travel to the western city of Herat, where most of Italy's more than 2,300 troops in Afghanistan are based, another official said.
Italy has lost 10 soldiers in Afghanistan, one of them an intelligence officer wounded when Italian and British commandos freed him and a colleague from capture by rebels in September.
Ten people died in the raid - nine of the abductors, said by Afghan police to be Taliban rebels, and an Afghan interpreter.
Afterwards one of the communist factions within Prodi's left-wing government called for the withdrawal of Italian troops from the international effort launched here after the Taliban were ousted from government six years ago.
Support for the often-criticized mission has been waning in some of the other nearly 40 nations in ISAF, a force of about 40,000 that works with the Afghan security forces and a U.S.-led coalition of about 20,000 mostly U.S. troops.
"It's going to take time for this democratic experiment there in Afghanistan to work. And I believe it will," U.S. Preseident George W. Bush said.
Both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd used their visits Saturday to stress commitment to Afghanistan.
Sarkozy told journalists the international community could not afford to lose the "war against terrorism" in Afghanistan.
France has in particular increased its efforts to train the Afghan army and police, destroyed by the end of the Taliban's deeply conservative religious regime, and has moved six French fighter jets to a southern base.
Rudd said Australia would be involved in Afghanistan for the "long haul." He announced extra economic aid but did not say if he would keep the country's nearly 1,000 troops here after their mandate expires next year.


Updated : 2021-07-24 18:41 GMT+08:00