Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Afghanistan at the Italian Foreign Policy Forum

Afghanistan has been one of the key topics of discussion at the First Foreign Policy Forum, organized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 28th 2010. The Forum, divided into six panels, discussed the most pressing issues of Italian Foreign Policy: economic foreign policy, transatlantic relations, European Union, global partnerships, 'new' Middle East and Afghanistan.

Following the March 2010 Af-Pak Strategy, the appointment of a new ISAF Commander, the July 20th Kabul International Conference and the Wikileaks disclosures (which - apparently - were already well know within the experts community!), Afghan war is in a crucial phase.

The panel on Afghanistan was participated by the Afghan Ambassador to Italy, Amb. Musa Maroofi, Russian Federation Ambassador to Italy, Amb. Alexey Meshkov and by Attilio Massimo Iannucci, Special Representative of the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The panel has been moderated by Franco Venturini, journalist at Corriere della Sera, one of the major Italian daily newspapers.

Attilio Massimo Iannucci highlighted the stabilizing role of economic development and the contribution that civil-military cooperation can bring forward in this field. "Civilian reconstruction efforts are the reason for not leaving Afghanistan to its own destiny", Iannucci said, echoed by Afghan Ambassador.

Economic development, indeed, is a crucial tool to hinter insurgents sources of recruitment, since many support the cause in return of a daily sum to survive. With other sources of income available, many insurgents will not find a reason for participating to the insurgency.

The economic development is greatly supported by civil-military cooperation, which has operated in three different sectors: direct assistance to people in need, especially at the beginning of the ISAF operations when most basic needs needed to be addressed, education and training of local officers and economic cooperation.

As leading nation of the Regional Command West, Italian troops, NGOs and civilians experts from the local Provincial Reconstruction Team are now concentrating on the last two sectors, with a special focus on a National Justice Programme and on the education and training of Borders and Customs Police officers.

Training has been intensively pursued by Italian experts and authorities. 20 high officers from the Borders and Custom Police Department have been trained in Italy, along with other bilateral and multilateral training opportunities for Afghan police officers and military personnel.

Furthermore, a group of afghan marble entrepreneurs was invited to visit the Italian marble district of Carrara, since a flourished marble industry around Herat existed in the past and it has survived 30 years of war. Until now, tough, marble was extracted with controlled explosion making it a dangerous and product-wasting process. With support from Italian companies, several marble-cut machineries will be delivered to Afghan companies, making it possible to local entrepreneurs to imporve thier production and cut costs.

"The international community has greatly contributed to Afghan economic development, but much importance must be given to the investment flows to and from the country", Iannucci said.

Therefore we can assume that security will improve if economic development will continue. Only then, there will be less need for military support and increasingly more need for civilian expertise.

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