A Taleban commander and two senior Afghan officials confirmed yesterday that Italian forces paid protection money to prevent attacks on their troops.
After furious denials in Rome of a Times report that the Italian authorities had paid the bribes, the Afghans gave further details of the practice. Mohammed Ishmayel, a Taleban commander, said that a deal was struck last year so that Italian forces in the Salobi area, east of Kabul, were not attacked by local insurgents.
The payment of protection money was revealed after the death of ten French soldiers in August 2008 at the hands of large Taleban force in Sarobi. French forces had taken over the district from Italian troops, but were unaware of secret Italian payments to local commanders to stop attacks on their forces and consequently misjudged local threat levels.
Note the attacks only happened after the bribes stopped being paid, it was the Italian failure to tell the French of the arrangement that caused the failure, not the bribery itself.
This also shows the dangers of being allies of Italy. In Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" (which the film was based on), he refers to suspicions by the Americans that the Italian forces in the country were cooperating with the local warlords in exchange for a quiet life, even to the extent of tipping them off before US raids.