Afghanistan: the flag of the Italian contingent has been lowered

On 8th June, Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini was in Afghanistan for the flag drop ceremony of the Italian contingent of the NATO Resolute Support mission. Guerini: “Your example, the sacrifice of the Fallen, the wounded, the sufferings of your distant families, are the lifeblood of freedom. In difficult times, you have been the bearers of peace “

“I thank all of you and those who have preceded you in these 20 years. You have shown that you deeply believe in what you are doing and contributed, even at the cost of important sacrifices, to the realization of a better future in a land that has seen so much suffering. The whole Italy is grateful to you because through you, it has shown that it is always up to the challenge that the international community is asking to face”. Thus, this morning Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini in Herat during the greeting to the staff of the Italian contingent, who are preparing to return from the NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

The ceremony of the lowering of the flag – which began with a minute of silence for the fallen in Afghanistan – was attended by the Chief of the Defense Staff, General Enzo Vecciarelli, the Commander of the COI (Operational Command of the Joint Forces) Gen. C.A. Luciano Portolano, Lt. Col Gianfranco Paglia (Gold Medal for Military Valour) and the Commander of the Herat Command, Gen. B. Beniamino Vergori.

After the tribute to the Flag of the 186th Regiment, in the Head Quarter of the Task Force Arena, the Minister met the staff to whom he brought greetings from the whole Italy and gratitude for their commitment in facing the challenges that the international community calls to face. “Your example, the sacrifice of the Fallen, the wounded, the sufferings of your distant families, are the lifeblood of freedom. In difficult times, you have been peacemakers” he said.

Guerini then underlined the importance of preserving the results achieved in all these years through a shared political, economic and diplomatic process: “We will have to continue to support Afghanistan, not only under the fundamental profile of development cooperation activities and strengthening institutions, but I believe that we must also guarantee continuity in the training and strengthening of the Afghan Security Forces, so as not to waste what has been obtained at such a high price”.

Retracing the stages of a journey that began in the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers, Minister Guerini stressed that Italy immediately did its part, alongside its allies, in what was called the “War on Terror”, participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, from November 2001 to September 2013, first operating from the Indian Ocean then directly in Afghan territory, alongside our allies, to contribute to the restoration of democracy and civil liberties and to the protection of the Afghan population. A contribution that, with the launch of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), and therefore with the entry of NATO in Afghanistan, saw Italy operate first in Kabul and then, in the expansion phase of the mission, also in Herat, in the western region of Afghanistan, assuming the responsibility of assisting the Afghan regional authorities since 2005, with the related commitment in the delicate phase of transition.

“Today we are here to close our participation in Operation Resolute Support, which has replaced ISAF since January 2015, concentrating our efforts on training, consulting and accompanying our Afghan allies and friends,” said Guerini. An activity that in recent years has seen the direct or indirect training of more than 20,000 Afghan soldiers of the 207th Army Corps of the Afghan National Army and the implementation of about 2200 civil-military cooperation projects. In over twenty years, more than 50,000 soldiers from all the Armed Forces have alternated in Afghanistan with land, air, and special forces assets. Guerini addressed a moving thought to all the Italians, civilians, and soldiers, who lost their lives in Afghanistan, among them the 53 fallen and the more than 700 military wounded and those who, still today, bear the marks of the courageous testimony of life at the service of the country: “Their value, their spirit of sacrifice and their example will never be forgotten”. That in Afghanistan is one of the longest missions that our Armed Forces have ever carried out: “Defending international peace and legality does not only require prompt intervention” said Guerini “very often means ensuring a constant presence and commitment over time. It was like this in Afghanistan”.

“It was a delicate mission that highlighted the high professionalism of our men and women in uniform but above all, their strong ability to grasp the needs of the Afghan people and their institutions that we have accompanied in the process of building a country safer, freer and more democratic,” he added. Thanks to the all-Italian model of interaction with the population, made up of understanding, availability, empathy, the Italian military, in fact, have achieved important results for international security and freedom, above all the Afghan people. Before the flag-lowering ceremony, the Minister met Resolute Support Mission Commander Gen. Austin Scott Miller, Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, and Ambassador of Italy to Afghanistan Vittorio Sandalli.

Photo: Italian MOD

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