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Ambassador discusses Italy's stake in Afghanistan

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In an editorial in this week's Diplomatic Courier, Italian Ambassador to the U.S. Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata discussed Italy's continued involvement in Afghanistan.

"Why is Italy in Afghanistan?," Terzi begins. "Prime Minister Berlusconi recently answered that question: 'We are there because our national security is at stake. We are there to offer a future to the Afghan population. We are there because we want the Afghan Government to be able to walk alone. We are there to buttress NATO's credibility in the war on terrorism.'"

In the piece, Terzi discusses Italy's continued commitment to the region, describing how the Italian government has increased its presence in Afghanistan since 2002.

Terzi: Italy's commitment to promoting stability in the region over the last nine years is in the numbers. Our presence there -- both military and civilian -- dates back to 2002. At the beginning of 2010, we had 3,150 soldiers deployed on the ground. Last December, the government announced that Italy would be sending 1,000 more. In terms of percentages, it is the largest additional contribution among NATO allies in response to the "call" from President Obama. By the end of this year, our total military deployed in Afghanistan will be 4,000.

But, he notes, their role is far from strictly military and instead also supports economic development and reconstruction.

Terzi: The Italian military contingent supports Afghan Government, mentoring and training the Afghani police and army and disarming illegal armed groups. Our troops work in close coordination with the civilian component in rebuilding Herat province where we have established a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in direct result of a joint effort by our Foreign and Defense Ministries. The PRT is meant to function as a catalyst for programs aimed at promoting economic development while empowering local authorities and improving their ability to deliver security, especially in the country's western region where Italy is responsible for ISAF command.

Click here to read his editorial in full.