Italian defense minister on Afghan visit

July 1, 2008 at 5:24 PM

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 1 (UPI) -- Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa visited Italian troops Tuesday in two regions of Afghanistan.

The Italian government recently announced that it would allow more flexible deployment of its forces in Afghanistan. Italy now has 2,700 soldiers stationed there, most in Herat, where Italy commands the International Security Assistance Force for NATO, and the rest in Farah province, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

La Russa is also scheduled to meet with President Hamid Karzai during his visit to Afghanistan.

When Italy transfers command in Herat to France next month, another 500 troops will be moved to Farah, La Russa said. About 160 soldiers are now in the turbulent area.

La Russa said that soldiers he talked to asked him for helicopters, not for better food or other amenities.

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