• 04 Aug 2016
  • Defence Minister Pinotti confirms Italy will let the US use its military bases against ISIS in Libya

    Gerardo Pelosi
  • As was the case in the first phase of the raids against Libyan leader Qaddafi in 2011, Italy is today ready to contribute to the American operations to neutralize ISIS bases in Sirte by allowing the use of its airspace, with logistical support and use of the Aviano (Friuli Venezia Giulia) and Sigonella (Sicily) bases.

    Such a request, Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti explained yesterday in Parliament, has not yet been received and until now no military action has involved Italian territory, but we cannot rule out that over the next few days the situation may change, and that using Sigonella in particular may become of strategic importance for the mission against ISIS (also known as Daesh) to succeed. If the request arrives and strategic priorities require it, Pinotti said, Italy is ready to give its approval.

    The Defense Minister carefully weighed her words in a speech to the Chamber of Deputies after coordinating the guidelines both with the Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Everything will be useful to the Prime Minister during this delicate political phase before the referendum - except for a risky “Libyan case.”

    The message hasn’t changed: Italy takes an active part in the coalition against ISIS with more than 1,000 soldiers destined to train local security forces. It has also offered to deploy four Tornado military planes and a series of drones but does not plan to take an active role in air raids in Syria, Iraq and especially not in Libya.

    According to Pinotti, “the request for support is clear in the words of President Serraj, which is why the government is keeping a door open for a direct and ongoing dialogue both with its Libyan counterpart and with the American allies in order to verify the development of the operation and the need for indirect support, and it is ready to consider the use of national air bases and the national airspace in support of the operations if this is considered useful for a more effective and quicker end to the action.”

    But in Sigonella the American Reapers (drones) are still silent even though they are ready to take off to hit their targets -- ISIS positions at Sirte and in other Libyan locations. So far, no mission has been launched from the US base and all the attack operations, at least seven in two days, were started from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean and from bases in Jordan.

    The targets to hit are concentrated in the center of Sirte, but the situation remains very tense across Libya.

    Pinotti insisted on the need to eliminate ISIS bases in the Middle East to guarantee better security and prevent new attacks by ISIS in European cities.

    “The government believes that success in the fight to eliminate the terrorist centers in Libya is essential for the security of Libya, and also of Europe and Italy,” she said. “Italy is a determined partner in the fight against ISIS and supports as a key element the direct role of local populations and governments in the fight against terrorism.”

    As for the duration of the raids against ISIS, they could continue until the jihadists have been eradicated from the country.