Berlusconi Says He Wants Italian Troops Out Of Afghanistan

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it would be “best” for the country’s troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible after six were killed in a car bombing in Kabul.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry return to their base Camp Restrepo in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan's Kunar Province on Friday May 8, 2009. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

ROME, Italy (CNN) — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it would be “best” for the country’s troops to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible after six were killed in a car bombing in Kabul.

Berlusconi, speaking to reporters Thursday, gave no timeline for a withdrawal and said any pullout would have to be coordinated with Italy’s allies.

“There is no idea,” Berlusconi said about a possible date for leaving Afghanistan. “It is an international problem. It is not a problem that a country present there can take on its own. Doing so could betray the accord and trust of the other countries present.”

Ten Afghan civilians were killed along with the paratroopers Thursday and about 50 people were wounded, NATO said.

Italian newspapers labeled the soldiers’ death a “slaughter,” with at least four major papers using that word in their headlines Friday. “The slaughter of the Italians shakes Italy,” declared the national newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The soldiers’ pictures were shown in newspapers and on television.

The deaths were the highest single-day death toll for Italy in the Afghan mission. They bring to 21 the number of Italian troops killed there since the start of the mission, though not all the deaths were due to hostilities.

Italy has about 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, most of them based in the western province of Herat. Italy sent an extra 500 troops to Afghanistan this summer ahead of the presidential election.

“We are all convinced that the best thing for all of them is to leave soon, to no longer have a presence there,” Berlusconi said in Brussels, Belgium. “I’ve spoken with (U.S. President Barack) Obama during the G-8 and we are preparing a plan which could be enacted as soon as our training of the Afghan forces is carried out successfully.”

At the very least, Berlusconi said, Italy may start bringing home the 500 additional troops now that the election is over. But he still didn’t say when that might happen.

“We can’t put a time frame (on the withdrawal,)” Berlusconi said. “We’ll speak about this with our international allies at the G-20, and then at the October council when this subject will be brought up.”


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