The Italian government has won a significant vote in the Senate paving the way for the country’s troops to remain in Afghanistan. Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition saw off a rebellion from within its own ranks. More than 130 members of the centre- right opposition, led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, abstained en masse but the motion for more military funding was nevertheless carried by 180 votes to two.
However, given the political climate in Italy, the Senate ballot was always going to be more than just the sum of its parts. The Taleban hostage swap which secured the release of the journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo has been criticised and led to Berlusconi’s abstention. The concern was that a defeat this time around would lead to the government collapsing, as happened in February.
Italy5;s 2000 strong Afghanistan force is divided between the East and West of the country. It consists of a regional command unit and a reconstruction team aimed at ensuring the safety of civilians.