Rome: The new Italian government will continue its participation in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan until 2014 and afterwards will commit to training of the Afghan forces, Defense Minister Mario Mauro said Wednesday.
The Italian government intends to "continue its participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan ending it as scheduled in 2014," the minister said, reported Xinhua.
After the mission ends in 2014, Italy will carry on its engagement by assisting and training Afghan troops, he added. The new mission will not include the fight against insurgents, nor against terrorism and drug trafficking, Mauro clarified.
The Italian contingent which now has about 3,100 units "is being progressively reduced and will be further cut down significantly throughout 2014," he said.
Mauro made the remarks while briefing the parliament's lower house on a hand-grenade attack which killed last week an Italian soldier, Giuseppe La Rosa, serving in ISAF.
The attack was carried out by a 20-year-old Afghan who was reportedly arrested and not, as initially claimed by the Taliban, by an 11-year-old, Mauro said.
La Rosa was the 53rd Italian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of ISAF operations in 2004. The many deaths led to increasing calls from some political forces for the pull-out to be sped up.