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Italian Army - Peacekeeping Operations

The peace-keeping missions performed by the Italian Army in the last decade of the XX century have shown how a military organization can rapidly and effectively adapt to the new scenarios and requirements challenging the international community. From 1945 to 1990, the peace-keeping function, with few exceptions, was the sole and direct responsibility of the UN. This organization, the first to suffer from the East-West confrontation, used to defuse all conflicts and crises by deploying observers and light military units to the theatre with very limited mandates and harsh restrictions.

In the late 1980's the international deadlock was broken. Thus, the UN could act more decisively and other actors, such as the EU and NATO, became important and sometimes critical supporters of international stability. Contrary to many people's expectations, the end of the cold did not solve the problem of instability. This threat to society has taken on new forms and aspects, obliging the international community to devise other measures tailored to asymmetric requirements. The requirement to send unarmed observers and light forces to monitor opponents not always ready to cooperate has been coupled with the need to deploy a large number of heavily equipped forces, in order to persuade the warring factions to solve their problems and harmonize their opposing views through dialogue and peaceful, though sometimes hard, confrontation.

The Italian Army is a good example of this genetic change. In fact, it has not only deployed helicopter units to Lebanon, observers to the Sahara desert or to the Kashmir mountains, but also "Mangusta" attack helicopters, "Centauro" light armoured vehicles and artillery self-propelled means to Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo. However, even within this new framework, the Italian soldiers - both men and women, conscripts and volunteers, officers, NCOs and enlisted men - have always shown their usual professionalism, humanity and comprehension, being capable of establishing friendly relations with their peers, as well as with people speaking different languages and belonging to a wide range of cultures and traditions. In fact, even wearing a flak jacket or a blue or camouflage helmet, an Italian shows his generosity and intelligence.

It is a demanding task to give an overview of the operations carried out by the Italian Army within the peace-keeping missions performed in the last decade. If the wide range of names recalling different people, places, landscapes and memories are put together, they give us a blurred image of the world, where the mountains in Afghanistan and Kurdistan overlap with the jungles in Timor and Mozambique, the snow in the Balkans and the desert in the Sahara. In the background, there is the cracking of radios, the roar of helicopters and armoured cars and the echo of different languages and dialects. But, taking into account the commitment of forces during this year, that blurred image clears up. An underlying element is that the Italian Army is a force which supports peace everywhere and under all circumstances, and is ready to sacrifice its men -and now women as well. Personnel serve long tours abroad, silently fulfilling their duties with no complaints, only wishing to do their job properly. Over the years, some of them have come home wrapped up in the Italian flag, accompanied by the grief of their comrades in arms and received by their distressed families.

Our thanks go to all the Italian soldiers - dead and alive - for their sacrifice, wounds, mutilations, fatigue, illnesses and suffering abroad, which did not prevent them from fulfilling their duties. Thus, they gained the respect, appreciation and friendship of their comrades from member and partner countries, as well as the gratitude of the supported populations.

These missions are characterized by different ranges of colours. Besides the blue and white typical of UN operations, new colours have been progressively adopted to camouflage military means ad adapt them to different scenarios, from the African to the Arctic ones. These types of camouflage are in line with the new demanding and wide-ranging commitments Italy is called upon to meet, besides its institutional tasks, such as the defense of the country and its institutions.

Moreover, all this shows how the concept of peace-keeping has changed, to include combat operations as well, in the support of peace. Paradoxically, today the requirement is felt to deploy forces capable of carrying out high intensity operations, instead of patrolling calm and silent cease-fire lines. From Mozambique to Afghanistan, from Kosovo to Rwanda, not only has the Italian Army deployed paratroopers and rangers, but also heavy units and means, showing once again the capabilities and effectiveness of its personnel and organization.

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Page last modified: 29-09-2012 18:37:40 ZULU