Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Sunday (December 24) he would propose to parliament transferring some of the country’s troops stationed in Iraq to Niger to fight people smuggling and terrorism.
Gentiloni said Italy’s 1,400-strong military presence in Iraq could now be reduced after victories against Islamic militants and instead deployed in the Sahel region of West Africa.
He was speaking aboard the Italian ship Etna, used in the European Union’s “Sophia” operation to counter people smuggling in the Mediterranean.
He did not specify how many people would be sent to Niger. Newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano wrote on Sunday that the contingent would be “at least 470” as part of a commitment made to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron has thrown his weight behind a French-backed West African force known as the G5 Sahel, which includes the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, which was set up in October to tackle Islamist militants.
The Italian parliament is expected to be formally dissolved by the end of this year ahead of March elections but it will continue to meet for “ordinary administration” and could approve Gentiloni’s request for the transfer of military personnel.