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Afghanistan: Italy denies report it bribed Taliban forces

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The Italian government has angrily denied a Times of London report that says that the Italian intelligence service bribed the Taliban in Afghanistan not to attack Italian forces operating there. The report also says that Italy's failure to disclose the alleged bribes to the French forces that later replaced the Italian troops led to France making a "catastrophically incorrect threat assessment," something that resulted in the death of 10 French soldiers last year.

The Times report, which was published Wednesday, says that "in the months before the French soldiers arrived in mid-2008, the Italian secret service had been paying tens of thousands of dollars to Taleban commanders and local warlords to keep the area quiet."

US intelligence officials were flabbergasted when they found out through intercepted telephone conversations that the Italians had also been buying off militants, notably in Herat province in the far west. In June 2008, several weeks before the ambush, the US Ambassador in Rome made a démarche, or diplomatic protest, to the Berlusconi Government over allegations concerning the tactic.
However, a number of high-ranking officers in Nato have told The Times that payments were subsequently discovered to have been made in the Sarobi area as well.
Western officials say that because the French knew nothing of the payments they made a catastrophically incorrect threat assessment.
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