The Italian government has launched an operation to bring to Italy some Afghans who collaborated with the Italian mission in Afghanistan, along with their families, to offer them international protection. On Monday, the first flight arrived with 82 Afghan civilians at Rome's Fiumicino Airport.
It's not only Italian soldiers who will be coming back to Italy from Herat as the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support ends in Afghanistan. There will also be Afghans -- interpreters, drivers, and barmen who worked with the Italian nationals and their families -- taken in by Italy with international protection to avoid revenge by the Taliban when NATO troops have completed their withdrawal from the country.
On Monday, June 14, the first flight arrived at Rome's Fiumicino Airport with 82 Afghan civilians who collaborated with the Italian armed forces.
"Italy won't forget them," said Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini.
Collaborators threatened by the Taliban
September 11 was the symbolic date chosen by US President Joe Biden for the end of the American commitment in the country that had become the cradle of Al Qaeda.
But lately things have sped up and the withdrawal (other countries committed to Resolute Support are adjusting to the American timeframe) could end by mid-July.
Camp Arena, the Italian base in Herat, where Guerini travelled on June 8 to greet the troops and for the flag-lowering ceremony, is already partially empty.
In recent weeks in Kabul and other cities in the country there have been demonstrations by Afghan collaborators who are asking to be transferred out of Afghanistan.
In recent years these collaborators have been victims of targeted attacks by the Taliban. Many of them have been tortured and killed, and without the protection of NATO forces, the lives of those who collaborated with those considered "foreign invaders" would be highly at risk.
A Taliban spokesman days ago declared that these people won't have anything to fear, so long as they show "remorse".
Operation Aquila to transfer about 270 collaborators to Italy
Observers predict that those who can flee, will. The Italian defence ministry launched a specific operation called "Aquila" to transfer about 270 people including collaborators and their families, while the situations of 400 others are still being evaluated.
On Monday the first 82 arrived. After a period of quarantine they will be granted international protection and will be taken in by the interior ministry and placed into the reception and integration network.
Two of the Afghans who worked with the Italian military in Herat, an interpreter named Nader and a barman named Hamid, said they are ready to start a new adventure. They didn't hide their emotion, however, over having to abandon their home country. "We hope to give Italy what Italy has given us," they said.