Italy plans to cut troops in Afghanistan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Italy plans to cut up to 300 troops from its 2,400-strong contingent in Afghanistan later this year, Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said on Monday.

“Our intention is to make a decrease in September of between 250 and 300,” La Russa told reporters at an EU meeting.

La Russa also said Italy planned to make its contingent better able to react quickly to requests from NATO to operate outside its main base in west Afghanistan, but stressed Rome did not plan to move its troops anywhere else permanently.

“We want to deploy in a few hours — six hours — our troops in zones where it is useful for logistical or military reasons,” he said, adding that current procedures meant it took 76 hours for Italy to launch a deployment.

“We intend to modify this hurdle without modifying our zone of deployment,” he said.

Italian officials have in recent days said Rome wanted to make its deployment in Afghanistan more flexible, prompting speculation it would be ready to help bear the brunt of fighting against Taliban insurgents in the south.

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