Niger: between confirmations and diplomatic restraints, the Italian mission continues


(by Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi) The Italian mission in Niger is stalled, indeed it continues without problems. To read the news of recent weeks on the subject it is understandable that there is still much to be clarified about the intervention of Italy to stop the flow of migrants and train local troops in Niger on the border with Libya. Officially announced by Paolo Gentiloni the 13 last December, and voted in a hurry by the Chamber of Deputies, there was once the Italian mission in Niger. It is not totally clear at the moment in fact how the mission will continue since the Italian and the Nigerian government seem to think in a diametrically opposite way.Chronicles of a diplomatic disaster announced? Maybe, but let's go step by step.

"We are going to Niger for a request from the local government, which we received in December, concerning what we usually do in countries like Libya: reinforcing the instruments for controlling the territory and borders and the local police force" said council president Paolo Gentiloni, speaking of the mission to the committee for defense of the room on January 15. According to the intentions of the government in the 2018 there should be a sharp downsizing of the Italian military presence abroad (where our soldiers are now engaged in 32 international missions in 21 countries). Specifically in Iraq we would pass from 1.500 to 750 soldiers, in Afghanistan from 900 to 700 soldiers. The Italian contingents would move in Africa, in particular in Libya with an increase from 370 to 400 soldiers and in Niger with a mission of 470 soldiers (including 130 means of land and two planes) actually employed in supporting local authorities in border police training and border control, along the route most used by migrants going to Europe. The military intervention in Niger would take place in the context of the G5 mission (Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania) in the Sahel, in which Italy has asked to be an observer member. The "Sahel Coalition" presented last December 13, during the joint press conference at the end of the G5 Sahel (summit between heads of state and government of France, Germany, Italy and the five Sahel countries), would be born with the declared objective to counter terrorism in the region and it should be "An effective and real operational organization with a single regional command to support the G5 Sahel force and the Sahel Alliance on the ground."Coalition that will also be able to make use of allocations for 50 million euros from the European Union, 60 million dollars from the United States, 30 million from the United Arab Emirates and 100 million from Saudi Arabia. For clarity, in Niger meanwhile there is already a rate of about fifty soldiers with the task of preparing the ground for the bulk of the mission, Italy would thus join the French, US and German armed forces that are already present in the country , respectively, for years and months, in an important geopolitical context for Italy.

According to various rumors, however, the mission would be stalled. At the beginning of March, the Niamey government seemed, despite the team of 40 specialists sent to Africa after the approval of the Chigi palace resolution, to say, for the second time, no to the arrival of Italian soldiers to be used against illegal immigration and terrorism. Stop communicated by the Minister of the Interior, Mohamed Bazoum, who had repeated what had already been leaked by the Foreign Ministry about two months ago on the opposition to sending the quota, re-launched by the French broadcaster Rfi. According to the indiscretions, in fact, Niger would not have been officially informed by Italy about the next military mission in the African country,and the representatives of the Government had learned of the deployment of the Italian contingent from a launch of the press agency. Furthermore, again according to the sources of the Francophone broadcaster, it is stated that the formation of the Niger military and security forces, motivated by the Italian government for the mission, has already been entrusted to other nations. It would seem so obvious that part of the Nigerian government does not agree with the mission and issues statements to French international radios to move the waters of the controversy.

Impossible not to notice though that in Niger it is France (our historical rival) who holds the most important influence: on the same days, in fact, the hypothesis of a French responsibility to stop at the Italian missions was circulated, namely that the government of Paris, which has a contingent present in that area with a leading role together with the United States and Germany, has pressed for our country to stay out of African games. A situation that, if it had been confirmed, would put our country on the corner. Of course, behind the decision of the Italian government there was an agreement signed by the two countries the 26 September 2017 on the basis of the agreement for the development of bilateral cooperation in the field of security, signed during the January 3 meeting of the Nigerian government with the number one of the Farnesina, Angelino Alfano, flew to Niamey to inaugurate the Italian embassy. The same Nigerian newspapers had written it, but they specified: "Our sources confirm the existence of a dialogue and technical and security coordination with Italy, but this does not in any way imply that Niger intends to welcome an Italian military mission".

Meanwhile, on the site of the Defense, just to make more clarity on the subject, was published an official statement that reaffirms that "Regarding what has been reported by some press organizations about the suspension of the mission in Niger, we reiterate what recently declared publicly by the Chief of Defense Staff, who are continuing the activitiesà programmed of the reconnaissance nucleus for activityà connection and preparation, in agreement with the Authoritiesà nigerine, and preparing for the preparation of the Italian base in Niger. There is therefore no hypothesis of withdrawal of Italian military personnel. The mission will developà in full agreement with the Authoritiesà locals." Except for any new problems, logistical or diplomatic, our mission should therefore continue with a maximum number of committed soldiers that will be based on Parliament's decisions and on the future necessity modulated according to the situation of the operational theater and the trained needs to be satisfied. "At present" the mission continues.

Niger: between confirmations and diplomatic restraints, the Italian mission continues