| GEO World|
| Italy plans temporary increase in Afghan force|
| Updated at: 1342 PST, Thursday, December 11, 2008|
ROME: Italy will temporarily increase its number of troops in Afghanistan by 500 next year in the face of a "delicate operational situation" in western Herat province, the government said on Thursday.
"The commitments we have made within NATO demand that our contingent in Afghanistan reach the figure of 2,800 for six months in 2009," Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa told the Senate defence and foreign affairs committees.
La Russa said the increase would respect the ceiling of 2,600 set by parliament for the deployment because it refers to an average over a 12-month period.
The defence minister was speaking the day after meeting with visiting US General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, who said he favoured a US troop surge in Afghanistan.
Petraeus said he had "already made recommendations" for an almost doubling of the US force based on requests from General David McKiernan, the top commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
NATO currently has some 50,000 troops in Afghanistan spread across the country with many of the Italians based in Heart bordering Iran.