Italy pledges troops to U.S.
ROME, Italy -- Italy is to provide a 2,700-strong force for the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, including naval, air and ground units, parliament has been told.
Defence minister Antonio Martino said the majority of Italy's military contribution would be involved in logistical and defensive operations, but added that a limited number of the contingent might be involved in combat operations.
He said on Wednesday that the Italians would be placed under the direct command of the U.S. military.
"We cannot underestimate the risk that this mission brings," Martino was quoted by Reuters as saying. "The possible risks to the coalition include terrorist actions, both in the areas where the military is deployed as well as on respective national territories."
Among the forces Italy will place at Washington's disposal are the aircraft carrier Garibaldi, with Harrier jump jets and attack helicopters, transport and fuel supply planes, and about 1,000 troops to be employed in escort and humanitarian missions.
It follows an offer by Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of up to 3,900 troops, which was rubber-stamped by the country's cabinet on Wednesday, backing up its pledge of solidarity with the United States.
The offer includes help in combating nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; medical services; special forces; air transport, and naval forces to protect shipping lanes, Schroeder told a news conference.
He said Germany was not asked to supply air or ground forces in Afghanistan.
French President Jacques Chirac said he would carefully study a request made on Sunday by U.S. military leaders that Paris send special forces, supplementing the 2,000 French troops already involved in U.S. military operations.
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