Just as tragic as the recent deaths of Italian soldiers in Kabul at the hands of a suicide bomber, was the reaction by many in Italy’s political and media establishment who immediately began calling for the withdrawal of Italian troops. Unwittingly, they only embolden the determination and radical agenda of the insurgents who seek to remove the international presence in Afghanistan and restore their tyranny and oppression which lasted from 1996 to 2001.
Such behavior encourages more attacks and places at greater risk the lives of all those, both Afghans and foreigners, struggling to create a better Afghanistan and improving international security. Such behavior will let insurgents conclude that increased attacks and violence directed at foreign nationals will provoke greater domestic reactions and eventual withdrawal.
Instead of supporting and encouraging their ground troops in their greatest hour of need, many Italian politicians and media seek short-term political gain to the detriment of Italy’s national interest, Italy’s reputation around the world and the security of ordinary Italians. Not only do they denigrate the lives of the six deceased soldiers and endanger the lives of other Italian troops and civilians involved in Afghanistan and other international peace-keeping operations around the world, they unwisely jeopardize the entire international mission and its members, both military and civilian, global stability and international security.
It’s time for such influential elements to grow up and assume greater responsibility. Among the more than 40 nations participating in the mission in Afghanistan, Italy is the fourth largest contributor of troops, not to mention its significant civilian presence, and its leadership of the international presence in western Afghanistan with an Italian general as head of regional command west. As a top-ten global economy, Italy is a leading and prominent member of the international community and plays a vital role in international peace-keeping, particularly in fragile powder-kegs such as Lebanon and the Balkans.
Calls for withdrawal by Italian politicians and media will only discourage the determination of their soldiers and serve as a source of embarrassment, and potential resentment and friction, when they interact with their colleagues from other states contributing to the mission in Afghanistan. Not to mention other international peace-keeping missions involving Italian troops. In addition, calls for withdrawal will only discourage ordinary Afghans from working and interacting with Italian soldiers for fear of their own future. They will conclude that since Italian soldiers can depart at any given moment, it is best not to cooperate due to fear of retribution by insurgents as collaborators.
On a recent trip to Afghanistan, I was able to interact with Italian soldiers in Kabul and Herat and witness first-hand their seriousness, professionalism and commitment to the mission. If many more in Italy’s political and media establishment would greater reflect these qualities, Italy would be a much better country for Italians at home and enjoy a more enhanced standing abroad.