Italian PM pays surprise visit to Afghanistan; visits NATO base in Herat with President Ghani

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday and met Italian troops at their base in western Herat province.

Mr. Renzi was accompanied by President Ashraf Ghani and senior Afghan government and NATO officials, according to reports.

President Ghani and Mr. Renzi also held closer-door talks at the NATO base in Herat after both leaders paid their respects to 54 Italian military personnel who have died in Afghanistan.

The details about the meeting were not disclosed, but according to sources, the two leaders discussed future financial commitment to Afghanistan and funding for projects supported by Italy including an airport in Herat, Ring Road in Herat and Kamal Khan Dam in Nimroz.

President Ghani and Mr. Renzi also held closer-door talks at the NATO base in Herat after both leaders paid their respects to 54 Italian military personnel who have died in Afghanistan

NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan officially ended late last year after 13 long years, but a contingent of coalition forces, including around 700 Italian forces, will stay back in the country to assist and train Afghan security forces.

The mission of Italian forces in Afghanistan is likely to end at the end of 2015.

Earlier in the day, President Ghani took stock of the security situation in Herat and held talks with provincial government and security officials.

Addressing a gathering of security personnel, President Ghani said the enemies are making desperate attempts to disrupt security and sabotage economic development projects in the country.

“People in the country sleep peacefully because of your sacrifices, you are the guardians of national unity,” President Ghani told a gathering of military personnel from Zafar Corps.

There has been an alarming escalation of violence across the country in recent weeks, especially since Taliban announced their annual spring offensive called ‘Azm’.

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