Chairman Greets Italian Defense Chief at Pentagon
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 29, 2004 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanked the new Italian chief of defense at the Pentagon today for Italy's staunch and ongoing support for the war on terror.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, right, chats with Italian Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, Italy's new chief of defense, during a March 29 Pentagon meeting. Photo by Salli Sobsey
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers hosted the visit by Italian Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, who traveled to Washington to attend a defense aerospace industry seminar this week. Di Paola, Italy's former national armaments director, assumed his new position March 9.
Myers noted that Italy has been a strong supporter in the war on terror, with significant contributions to operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and Africa.
"The war on terror is a war that engages everybody," said Di Paola. "Nobody can afford not to be a part of it." He said Italy's contributions to the terror war increase its own security at home. "The war on terrorism is a global war that requires going where the threat is," he said.
Di Paola said Italy historically has been a strong ally of the United States and remains faithful to that relationship.
During the Iraq deployment, Italy opened up two of its busiest civilian airports in Rome and Milan to support critical U.S. troop movements into the theater. Today, Italy remains a major coalition contributor in Iraq, second only to the United Kingdom, with more than 3,000 troops deployed in the British sector in southern Iraq to bring peace and stability to Iraq.
"My country is especially grateful to the Italian troops and police who are serving with skill and courage in Afghanistan and Iraq," President Bush told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last summer during a meeting at Bush's Texas ranch. "Our efforts to work for freedom and stability in these two countries and throughout the entire region are an integral part of the war on terror."
Italy's contributions have not been without cost. Nineteen Italians were killed in Iraq in November during a truck-bomb attack on the military police headquarters in Nasiriyah. It was Italy's single worst military loss since World War II.
"My heart goes out to the Italian Carabinieri troops who were killed, and their families and friends," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said following the attack. Italy also has been an active supporter of United Nations missions in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Italy was one of the first U.S. allies to offer military assets for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. A light infantry battalion of more than 1,000 Italian soldiers served as a maneuver force in Afghanistan from March to September 2003. The Italian Nibbio Task Force, with headquarters in Bagram, operated in the Afghan mountains surrounding Forward Operating Base Salerno to execute the dangerous mission of search and seizure for the war on terror. At that point, Italy was second only to the United States in the size of its force committed to Operation Enduring Freedom.
In addition, two Italian C-130J aircraft began operating out of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan in October 2002, and about 400 Italian soldiers are in Kabul in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi, a ship Di Paola once commanded, is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In addition, two Italian frigates operated in the theater for several months.
Italy also is making significant contributions to peace and stability in the Balkans. More than 5,000 Italian troops are deployed in the region: more than 2,800 in Kosovo, more than 11,000 in Bosnia and almost 600 in Albania.
Last week, Italian troops moved swiftly and effectively to restore order after ethnic clashes in Kosovo, preventing further bloodshed and helping avert a crisis in the region.
In addition to this work, Italy was one of the first countries to join the Proliferation Security Initiative in response to the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction.