“Both Italy’s international partners and the Afghan population have been unanimous in their appreciation of the role played by our country in Afghanistan. Thanks to our contribution, goals that just 10 years ago seemed impossible have been achieved: we need only think that 69 women now sit in Parliament”. These were some of the comments made by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, in his address to the joint Chamber and Senate Committees in the run-up to the NATO Summit in Chicago on 20-21 May 2012. At the Summit, the broad outline of the Alliance’s cooperation with Afghanistan for the period following the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014 will be approved.
The results achieved through the Italian contribution and cited by the Foreign Minister include “the approval of a Constitution that recognises equal treatment of men and women; the fact that 7 million children – 38% of them girls – now attend school, compared with just 900,000 – all of them boys – under the Taliban; and that 19.3% of university students are women”. Moreover, he added, “the health service now reaches 64% of the population, compared with just 8% ten years ago”.
Terzi then spoke of NATO-Russia cooperation, which he defined as strategic. “The NATO-Russian relationship is one we care strongly about and our goal is to keep the subject firmly on the NATO radar but also on that of the Russian leadership”. The Minister then recalled his recent meetings in Moscow with his Russian colleague Lavrov. “Even if it was not possible to obtain a session of the NATO-Russia Council in Chicago”, he added, “for Italy it is significant that at the recent NATO Ministerial in Brussels Lavrov underscored the need to keep the Pratica di Mare spirit alive”.
Di Paola: Assistance will continue post-2014
Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola announced that “from now until the end of 2014, in line with the other Allies, we will be progressively reducing our forces in Afghanistan while at the same time continuing to provide help and support for the Afghan security forces”. After 2014, in the post-ISAF context, we intend to play a part, with the initiatives decided by the international community, in maintaining the Afghans’ capability through a training and assistance presence that also includes a financial dimension”.
Minister Di Paola went on to explain that the transition process “is proceeding according to schedule”, including in the region of the country where the Italian troops are deployed. During the third stage of the transition, announced on Sunday 13 May 2012 by Karzai, “numerous districts from the Western Region, where the Italian contingent is operating, will come under Afghan responsibility. Most notably, all of Heart Province, with the exception of Shindand District, and all of Baghdis, with the exception of Bala Murghab, will shortly be transferred to Afghan hands. They will take over responsibility for 6 districts in Farah Province, and 3 in Ghor Province”.