A few days ago, following the tragic events in Paris, the Italian government finally approved a new anti-terrorism law. The new law imposes severe penalties for convicted foreign fighters and jihadi recruiters, establishes new rules for exploiting the work of intelligence, and encourages more careful checks at the borders. The Italian army will pursue its home-front mission supporting the police force in operation “Safe Streets” (Strade Sicure), and everything is expected to calm down. However, it is my opinion that engaging the military in public-order operations is an imperfect measure.
Soldiers don’t have the same powers or rules as police officers. They can’t arrest anyone, and must wait for the authorization of the police or carabinieri. “Safe Streets” was an operation planned to combat the mafia and camorra, and now comes mixed with anti-terrorism measures. My doubts about the true effectiveness of these precautions are copious, but mostly, I think it’s a bad idea for counterterrorism units to be linked to anti-mafia operations. This relationship is one tragically at odds, trying to assimilate two completely different missions and approaches to tackle both terrorism and the mafia.
The minister of the interior says:
“We affirmed the principles used to pursue terrorism suspects belong to the same system of rules that are used for pursuing suspected mafia members.”
Does a mafioso have the same modus operandi of an Islamic State terrorist? Do they have the same culture? As such, can we really rely on one unified set of countermeasures? But, above all, does the mafia have the same goals as ISIS?
Jihadist terrorism is not a simple crime; it contains a number of aspects that our government seems to ignore. To fight ISIS requires specific tools, but most especially, requires a clear policy—one without doubt. The minister of defense gave little in the way of details of operation “Safe Streets,” instead providing general and imprecise information about the means and men employed. Some might think that this was intended to maintain OPSEC and protect those men in the field, but I have some suspicion that the policy of the ministry is simply too unclear—even to those in the armed forces—for him to give specifics.
Operation “Prima Particha”
After several months of the Italian army operating covertly in Iraq with few resources, the government has finally confirmed its commitment against ISIS—initiating operation “Prima Particha” (the name of a Roman legion based in Syria). Our movements against the Islamic State began quietly, using just a few aircraft from the Italian Air Force. In November 2014, the ministry of defense ordered the dispatch of four Tornado jet fighters from the 6° Stormo (based in Ghedi), the “Red Devils,” to carry out surveillance missions and photographic reconnaissance (Isr).
Our fighter bombers flew out of Kuwait (Ahmed Al Jaber Air base). The small Italian Air Force’s task force consisted of 140 men under the direct command of the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (based in Qatar). As we have seen, the air campaign conducted by the Allied forces didn’t achieve the desired results. President Obama has since sought congressional authorization to deploy (out of extreme necessity and for just three years) ground forces to Iraq. The American command has asked Italy to send troops as training advisors to Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
The Italian army responded by sending its best units belonging to Task Force 45, which had just finished its mission in Afghanistan. Men and resources that, as anticipated by Gianandrea Gaiani, director of Analisi Difesa, lead our anti-ISIS efforts. Our Special Forces were stationed at a U.S. base in Erbil, while a detachment of 80 men was assigned to the command in Baghdad. Among the European countries fighting against ISIS, Italy offers a large number of men. Their quality is without doubt among the best; we know how to work the Col Moschin’s Raiders and other boys of TF 45.
ISIS: Two hours from Sicily
Just as I went to write a conclusion to this article, alarming news arrived from Libya. An ISIS-affiliated terrorist group conquered the city of Sirte. The embassy urged the Italian citizens to leave Libya, while thousands of refugees prepared to sail to Sicily. Egypt, too, is experiencing their first attacks from ISIS, the victims among their Coptic community. The vacuum of power in Libya has enabled extremist groups to win some key positions in Derna and Sirte—an unstable situation brought on by the same forces that the Western world hailed during the “Arab Spring” as a sign of freedom and democracy. Our foreign minister said that “It is not acceptable that a terrorist state is a few miles from our country.” In the event of an attack, Italy (with UN permission) is ready to respond militarily.
(Featured image courtesy of Jollyroger)
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