Bala Murghab, in a video the war of the Italians in Afghanistan

from Lorenzo Cremonesi

On DifesaOnLine the images of the firefight between the soldiers of the Sassari Brigade and the Taliban in 2009

Almost five months after the withdrawal of the American-led coalition from Afghanistan, the Italian military and those interested in the dynamics of that difficult situation are also trying to understand how things went during a military mission that lasted, at different stages, about twenty years. It is interesting to follow the report and the debate about two and a half hours long published on this subject from the DifesaOnLine site about the battle of Bala Murghab in the summer of 2009.

It must immediately be said that in the Italian media of that period it was told in near real time that it was a very complicated area, where the Taliban insurgency, in addition to groups of common criminals, carried out continuous blitzes against foreign contingents, including the Italian one. There were journalists who were “embedded” with the Italian forces and explained with videos and details what was happening. Now, however, a video published by DifesaOnLine emerges in which we see a live fire fight with the soldiers of the Sassari Brigade fighting shoulder to shoulder with the American allies, but also the Spanish together with the first units of the Afghan forces that the coalition was training. Anyone who was with international contingents at the time in Afghanistan and Iraq would find this almost routine anyway. Easily, now that the censorship is easing, others will emerge shot by the same soldiers. This is essentially a defensive operation.

The Italians are stationary in their positions and respond to the fire of the Taliban. Between them we hear rapid exchanges of words and exclamations resulting from the adrenaline rush in the battle. «Go, get it… stay down… I see people… take the machine gun… stay calm», then he shouts with joy when the target is hit. Among the officers who now comment on the story in the video are Colonel Mauro Scorzato and General Maurizio Sullig. Nothing strange. Normal combat scenes in Afghanistan in which the Taliban were clearly raising their heads and the guerrillas also invested the areas controlled by the Italians in the western regions, which were headed by the mother base in Herat. Moreover, Bala Murghab was located about 170 kilometers north of Herat, on the route of drug trafficking to Turkmenistan.

The Italian officers underline how complicated it was to fight against a guerrilla who did not hesitate to use schools, hospitals, mosques as shelters and shielded themselves from civilians. “The insurgents wanted civilian casualties to incriminate us,” they note. The video witnesses intense firefights with thousands of machine gun shells on the ground. In particular, the Italians were mobilized to try to recover the bodies of two American soldiers killed on a mission. In the background, not told in the video, the internal frictions of the Western coalition always remained. In general, the European contingents, including the Italian one, insisted on the character of a “peace mission” and in any case their rules of engagement were very restrictive. On the contrary, the Americans and the British were more aggressive.

To date, several American military commentators continue to reiterate that they were also the different rules of engagement within the international coalition to decrease its war capacity.