Italy’s announcement that it’s to start withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September comes as a blow for the US but is welcomed at home. Silvio Berlusconi, one of Washington’s staunchest allies, made the announcement during a political talk show yesterday.
The prime minister sent some three thousand troops to Iraq despite strong opposition at home – it’s the fourth largest contingent there. Now many Italians, like this Rome resident, are saying it would be a very good thing if the soldiers came home. The Italian are operating under British control in the southern region of Nassiriyah.
Berlusconi said he was in talks with his British counterpart about a total exit strategy, adding that the timetable will depend on the capacity of Iraq to provide adequate security.
Washington has said Rome’s decision is unrelated to the death of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari, killed earlier this month by US soldiers as he was rescuing an Italian hostage in Iraq. But the incident has strained relations with the US. 28 Italians have been killed in Iraq since troops were sent there in June 2003.