Friday, 16 October 2009

Italians pay 'protection' to Taliban: You say pizzo and I say pizza

Back in the 5th century the Romans regularly bought off their enemies by making hefty tribute payments in exchange for an agreement not to attack the Empire - a kind of early protection racket. In 447 alone they forked out 6,000lbs in gold to pay off the Huns and agreed to make annual instalments of 2,000lbs from then on. When the Romans missed the 451 payment, Attila lead his army across the border and devastated the cities of northern Gaul.

If a report in today's Times is correct, then it would seem that the Italians have been taking a lesson from their history books and have again been paying tribute to their adversaries - this time to the Taliban.

A local Taliban commander confirmed that a deal was struck last year so that Italian forces in the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, would not be attacked by local insurgents if the Italians paid over a load of cash.

Unfortunately when the Italians handed the area over to the French they omitted to tell them about the local protection racket - that or when the Italians said "pizzo" the French thought they had said "pizza".

Because the district had been so quiet prior to their arrival, the French had assumed that they had picked a nice peaceful area to look after. It was not until 10 of their soldiers were tragically killed last August that they realised all was not as it seemed.

Nato spokesman General Eric Tremblay said he was "not aware" of Italy having paid off Taliban militants. "If it does go on, it's the Afghan government (that does it) rather than international forces."

The Times: Italians bribed the Taleban all over Afghanistan, say officials