Italians bribe Taleban... and dont tell the rest of NATO.

Came across this today in The Times (British broadsheet) in regards to some rather monumental screw ups by the Italians in Afghanistan that lead to 10 dead, and 23 wounded French servicemen last year, due to no intelligence sharing by the Italians during, and after, their stay in Sarobi, east of Kabul.

This was a particularly... nasty attack, which was shown by the mutilated and looted corpses that showed up afterwards. Unsuprisingly, the French public were horrified.

Its often been said, you cannot buy an Afghan, you only rent him. And god forbid when that cashflow stops, as the French found out.

The Times said:
When ten French soldiers were killed last year in an ambush by Afghan insurgents in what had seemed a relatively peaceful area, the French public were horrified.

Their revulsion increased with the news that many of the dead soldiers had been mutilated — and with the publication of photographs showing the militants triumphantly sporting their victims’ flak jackets and weapons. The French had been in charge of the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, for only a month, taking over from the Italians; it was one of the biggest single losses of life by Nato forces in Afghanistan.

What the grieving nation did not know was that in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet, The Times has learnt. The clandestine payments, whose existence was hidden from the incoming French forces, were disclosed by Western military officials.

US intelligence officials were flabbergasted when they found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had also been buying off militants, notably in Herat province in the far west. In June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome made a démarche, or diplomatic protest, to the Berlusconi Government over allegations concerning the tactic.

However, a number of high-ranking officers in Nato have told The Times that payments were subsequently discovered to have been made in the Sarobi area as well.

Western officials say that because the French knew nothing of the payments they made a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment.

“One cannot be too doctrinaire about these things,” a senior Nato officer in Kabul said. “It might well make sense to buy off local groups and use non-violence to keep violence down. But it is madness to do so and not inform your allies.”

On August 18, a month after the Italian force departed, a lightly armed French patrol moved into the mountains north of Sarobi town, in the district of the same name, 65km (40 miles) east of Kabul. They had little reason to suspect that they were walking into the costliest battle for the French in a quarter of a century.

Operating in an arc of territory north and east of the Afghan capital, the French apparently believed that they were serving in a relatively benign district. The Italians they had replaced in July had suffered only one combat death in the previous year. For months the Nato headquarters in Kabul had praised Italian reconstruction projects under way around Sarobi. When an estimated 170 insurgents ambushed the force in the Uzbin Valley the upshot was a disaster. “They took us by surprise,” one French troop commander said after the attack.

A Nato post-operations assessment would sharply criticise the French force for its lack of preparation. “They went in with two platoons [approximately 60 men],” said one senior Nato officer. “They had no heavy weapons, no pre-arranged air support, no artillery support and not enough radios.”

Had it not been for the chance presence of some US special forces in the area who were able to call in air support for them, they would have been in an even worse situation. “The French were carrying just two medium machine guns and 100 rounds of ammunition per man. They were asking for trouble and the insurgents managed to get among them.”

A force from the 8th Marine Parachute Regiment took an hour and a half to reach the French over the mountains. “We couldn’t see the enemy and we didn’t know how many of them there were,” said another French officer. “After 20 minutes we started coming under fire from the rear. We were surrounded.”

The force was trapped until airstrikes forced the insurgents to retreat the next morning. By then ten French soldiers were dead and 21 injured.

The French public were appalled when it emerged that many of the dead had been mutilated by the insurgents— a mixed force including Taleban members and fighters from Hizb e-Islami.

A few weeks later French journalists photographed insurgents carrying French assault rifles and wearing French army flak jackets, helmets and, in one case, a dead soldier’s watch.

Two Western military officials in Kabul confirmed that intelligence briefings after the ambush said that the French troops had believed they were moving through a benign area — one which the Italian military had been keen to show off to the media as a successful example of a “hearts and minds” operation.

Another Nato source confirmed the allegations of Italian money going to insurgents. “The Italian intelligence service made the payments, it wasn’t the Italian Army,” he said. “It was payments of tens of thousands of dollars regularly to individual insurgent commanders. It was to stop Italian casualties that would cause political difficulties at home.”

When six Italian troops were killed in a bombing in Kabul last month it resulted in a national outpouring of grief and demands for troops to be withdrawn. The Nato source added that US intelligence became aware of the payments. “The Italians never acknowledged it, even though there was intercepted telephone traffic on the subject,” said the source. “The démarche was the result. It was not publicised because it would have caused a diplomatic nightmare. We found out about the Sarobi payments later.”

In Kabul a high-ranking Western intelligence source was scathing. “It’s an utter disgrace,” he said. “Nato in Afghanistan is a fragile enough construct without this lot working behind our backs. The Italians have a hell of a lot to answer for.”

Haji Abdul Rahman, a tribal elder from Sarobi, recalled how a benign environment became hostile overnight. “There were no attacks against the Italians. People said the Italians and Taleban had good relations between them.

“When the country [nationality of the forces] changed and the French came there was a big attack on them. We knew the Taleban came to the city and we knew that they didn’t carry out attacks on the Italian troops but we didn’t know why.”

The Italian Defence Ministry referred inquiries to the Prime Minister’s Office. A spokesman said: “The American Ambassador in Rome did not make any formal complaint. He merely asked for information, first from the previous Government and then from the current Government. The allegations were denied and they are totally unfounded.”

Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, defeated Romano Prodi at elections in April 2008.

The claims are not without precedent. In October 2007 two Italian agents were kidnapped in western Afghanistan; one was killed in a rescue by British special forces. It was later alleged in the Italian press that they had been kidnapped while making payments to the Taleban.
Overall, i'm fairly disgusted with this, as its effectively a betrayal of the rest of NATO. As stated in the article, the French were made unaware of the fact that the Taleban were about to attack, and the area was hostile - why would they think otherwise, after all?

Of course, its hardly suprising that the Italians are denying it, but what other reason could there be for a sudden 150 strong force to mass against a new NATO force, particularly when it had been near enough silent on the Italian overwatch? To be honest, i find it slightly... disturbing, that the Italians omitted to tell any of their allies, and it only came to light due to intercepted telephone conversations. Very scary. Either way, they need a serious dressing down for this one, as due to their stupidity theres 10 dead French personnel.

I'd be interested to see other's thoughts on this one as well, o' course.
No real surprise from Italy, they paid Millions for Giuliana Sgrena in 2005 what did they think that money went for, Ice Cream?
Italians and bribes - not a combination that you often read.
hopefully the french have changed their views of the fecking locals and are packing decent firepower now!

As for the Italians, bloody discraceful paying terrorists who attack their allies .

get them the feck out of nato ! :evil:

Ps while they are dishing out money give loads to the frenchies families they have betrayed ...

fecking wops!
With allies like that who needs enemies. I think a public slap across the face is required so they know just how beyond the pale this is! :x Also raises the question is this going on with any other allies?
carlbcfc said:
What was the money the paid spent on? Killing the rest of NATO?

Have they not funded terrorism?
Most likely funded the killers of the lads who got sent up in that patrol.

In all fairness, you can hardly argue that the US, and UK, haven't done the same elsewhere. That said, we made sure our allies were aware of it, and made no secret deals that could threaten personnel's lives.

It could be argued that the Italians good enough put a bullet in the Frenchies due to their inept actions.
Looks like the smallest Italian book written about Afghanistan is similar to the one written about the Italians in North Africe - The Book of Italian War Heroes
From The First Post

"Robert Fox: They’ve been accused of doing this before – in Iraq and Somalia
By Robert FoxFIRST POSTED OCTOBER 15, 2009Fifteen years after Italy rocked the world with its 'tangentopoli' (bribesville) scandal - showing corruption as a way of political life - it stands accused today of a secret policy of buying off the Taliban from attacking Italian troops in Afghanistan.

Bribery led to tragedy in the Sorobi valley east of Kabul because - it is alleged - when the Italians pulled out they forgot to tell the French who were replacing them that they had been buying peace from the Taliban with hard cash.

The French entered the valley in relaxed mode and suffered 10 dead in an ambush on a supply convoy - the worst single killing of a group of ISAF soldiers to date. The bodies were stripped and mutilated; the Taliban paraded for videos in French uniforms and kit.

Shocking maybe, but the story broken by the Times and reported by The First Post should not surprise. Bribery seems to be an established way of life or m.o. in a number or recent Italian peacekeeping exercises.

A po-faced statement from the Italian embassy in London today denies any such payments were made. Yet I understand the Times has been ultra-cautious in its charges because the prime source was US intelligence intercepts of mobile phone conversations between Italian Intelligence (SISMI) agents and Taliban warlords.

Similar charges have been laid before. It is believed that the Italians tried the same approach with insurgents when they were in Nasiriya in southern Iraq. They are also believed to have used a system of subsidy and reward to buy off militias in Somalia in the 1990s.

It's the kind of thing the British did in the Indian Raj, and Afghanistan, in the 19th Century. A former British Chief of Defence Staff, Lord Boyce, loves to quote the Kipling-esque adage, "You can't buy an Afghan's loyalty for life, but you can rent it by the hour."

The bribe tactic is very limited and often rebounds on the bribers. A senior Afghan security official speaking unofficially in London today said he was sure that some kind of greasing of Taliban palms had been going on. He didn't like it, and he thought it self-defeating.

He said he thought payments had been made, possibly by the Italians, to a notorious Jihadi warlord called Ghulam Yahya Akbari, a former mayor of Herat and known as the 'Tajik Taliban'.

"He used the money to build himself an army and buy in fighters. So we had to kill him," my Afghan security source told me.

Akbari and 15 of his leaders and fighters were killed in a special forces strike in western Herat in early February this year. He is known to have hosted Saudi recruits to al-Qaeda and to have been an ally of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami, an extreme Taliban affiliate with strong Pakistani backing.

The French and many other ISAF allies feel betrayed by the alleged Italian financial operations. As for the Italians, have they not heeded the tale of Ethelred the Unready, King of the Western Saxons, who believed he could bribe the Norse invaders to keep off his turf? Though he paid his 'Danegeld' - actually silver, not gold - by the sackful, the Vikings kept coming back for more. "

Still it must be admited that Bribery is a way of life in the Exotic orient.
I recall the Italians did something similar in Somalia back in the day

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