Rome

Italy to continue Afghan mission until 2014, minister says

But will keep training troops, says in briefing on 53rd death

Italy to continue Afghan mission until 2014, minister says

Rome, June 12 - The Italian government intends to "continue its participation in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan ending it as scheduled in 2014", Defence Minister Mario Mauro said on Wednesday, briefing the Lower House on an attack last Saturday which killed an Italian soldier serving in ISAF. Giuseppe La Rosa, a 31-year-old member of the Third Bersaglieri Regiment, was killed in a hand-grenade attack by an adult who is now under arrest and not, as initially claimed by the Taliban, by an 11-year-old, Mauro said. The attack that killed La Rosa in Farah Province, western Afghanistan "was coupled with a real psychological war with the release of information claiming the attacker was an 11-year-old boy so it would come across almost as an heroic act carried out with the participation of the population", the defence minister told an almost-empty House on Wednesday. The attacker, Mauro said, has been identified as Walick Ahmad, 20, and has given "a full confession", taking responsibility for both the death of La Rosa and another attack carried out on Tuesday in the same area against Italian troops aboard a Lince (Lynx) armoured vehicle which caused no victims. The death of La Rosa, the 53rd Italian to be killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of NATO operations, led to calls from some parties for the pull-out to be sped up. The Italian contingent which now has about 3,100 units is being progressively reduced this year and "will be further cut down throughout 2014'. After the ISAF mission in Afghanistan ends "we intend to continue our engagement in that country beyond 2014 by assisting and training Afghan troops", said the minister. The new mission "will be non-combat and will not include the fight against insurgents, nor against terrorism and drug trafficking," Mauro said. Coalition forces currently train, mentor and fight alongside Afghan troops.

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