400 more troops sent to Afghanistan

June 16, 2009 12:00 am

, ROME, June 16 – Italy will add 400 troops to its contingent of 2,800 soldiers in Afghanistan for the elections there in August, Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa told parliament Tuesday.

"We have authorised … 400 men and women for the elections who will stay in Afghanistan until September or October depending on whether there is a second round" following the first-round vote on August 20, La Russa said.

Two more Tornado fighter jets will be sent "as soon as technical and logistical conditions are right at the base in (western) Herat," he said.

If available, two military transport planes and three helicopters for medical evacuations may also be sent, he added.

Italy will also send 56 police officrs "to complete and reinforce the training of the Afghan police," La Russa said.

Campaigning in the Afghan presidential elections officially began on Tuesday and will continue until August 17.

Amid fears that Taliban insurgents behind a violent campaign that has reached record levels in recent weeks could try to attack the polls, thousands of Western reinforcements are arriving.

Last week attacks rose by 40 percent compared with the previous week, according to the interior ministry, despite the presence of nearly 90,000 troops in two international forces, a NATO force and a US-led one.


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