Italy has special forces in Libya

The list of countries “officially” fighting Daesh alongside Libya’s troops gets longer by the day. After Britain, France and the United States it is now Italy’s turn to confirm – or at least imply – that it has special forces on the ground in Libya.


Les hommes du 9e régiment d'assaut parachutiste "Col Moschin" à l'entraînement

Soldiers of the 9th parachute assault regiment “Col Moschin” in training


A few dozen commandos of the Italian Army’s 9th parachute assault regiment and the Carabinieri (military police) special intervention group are training and “supporting” Libyan troops and helping with mine clearance operations in the city of Surt (also known as Sirte, on the Libyan coast), according to an official document revealed by Italian daily La Repubblica.


According to the “secret” report from the COFS (Comando interforze per le Operazioni delle Forze Speciali, or joint command for special forces operations), these special operations come in the framework of a law approved in November 2015 by Italy’s parliament. This law enables Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to authorise the deployment of special forces abroad by placing them under the command of Italy’s secret service. According to La Republicca the document also reveals that these special forces do not answer to the classic chain of command but directly to the Italian Executive and benefit de jure from almost total immunity.


The report, destined for the Italian Committee for Overseeing Intelligence (COPASIR), puts an end to a long series of rumours and denials. The latest, in an interview given by Matteo Renzi to La Repubblica on 31 July, was that “the Italian units involved in the fight against Daesh are those authorised by Parliament, according to current legislation.”  With hindsight this declaration now sounds like an admission that the law voted for last November is being used.


Exit discretion: Italy’s special forces do not seem to be about to leave Libya. Rome has just announced that it is re-opening its embassy in Tripoli and is planning to set up a field hospital in Surt, Deputy Foreign Minister Vincenzo Amendola announced on 9 August.