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Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, Chief of General Staff of the Defense

Dear Guido, thank you for the opportunity you have given me to conclude this seminar on the MSUs. Frankly speaking, this is an opportunity I was looking for in the sense that I really felt the need to come here this evening. Perhaps some of you know that I returned this morning from the USA and wanted to come here because I know that the subject at issue I strongly debated and over which, no matter what we think, there is a great conceptual diversity and many comparisons at a “roman” level. What Filiberto Cecchi said is true. I was in Nassiriyah and Kabul last week and before that I was in Bosnia and in Kosovo. I thus know that on the terrain these problems are non existent. There are no problems on the terrain. Among all the components operating in our contingent, no matter what armed force they belong to, on the terrain there is no problem. On the terrain we all work together, because there are problems there, there are difficulties and we all work side by side without causing trouble or rivalry. The issue is different back in Rome. This is quite normal. When we reach the centre, when it is a matter of conceptually elaborating what one person or the other is doing, when doctrine is at issue, it is then that divergences begin. This is why Carlo Bellinzona was getting excited; it is part of the contract: moderator-exciter.

I wish to thank all the “panelists” present. I have known them for many years and consider them as friends. It is quite clear from the interventions such as Gen. Giovannetti’s, and Filiberto Cecchi’s, that there is a certain amount of conceptual diversity, which is not at all a bad thing as Guido said. “I am very happy”, said Guido, “to have organized this seminar on the MSUs with an open mind so that every one can put forth his ideas”. Rightly so, because as Luttwak said before, “the Carabinieri Corps may burst with pride”. These matters may not be managed exclusively; the Carabinieri Corps does not own the MSU though the Corps is the MSU’s very soul; but let us see how the MSU was born (who was present at the time already knows) Clark probably was not even thinking of the Carabinieri. At the time the Carabinieri were the only available resource that exactly corresponded with what he needed. Thus the Carabinieri-MSU identity came out thanks to you, thanks to the Carabinieri and to the fact that Italy then had the resource called Carabinieri that corresponded exactly to what Clark had in mind: that is, forces, within the military structure, under his control, (the solutions for a centralized management at operational level) substantially trained to enforce law and order.

This was his problem; he was in great difficulties with the ordinary SFOR forces that were unable to deal with these problems and, this is how the MSU was born. This is not an issue that can be developed only within the Carabinieri Corps, but it is an issue that demands an integrated resource with the awareness of all armed forces. Thus, as a person in charge of all the armed forces wishing to go in depth, I deem that the time has come to come out and start saying my mind on the matter. I believe that the Carabinieri Corps, in its international expression that we call MSU, is most certainly a very important asset. It would be very foolish and limiting if the Italian military tool, which is fortunate and privileged enough to have this special feature, this component, should not take advantage of it, should not try to enhance it at its best. Yesterday I met Wolfowitz, Ramsfeld’s deputy, whom Luttwak knows well and the first thing he asked me was: “what are these Carabinieri and these MSUs?”. This is the first thing we talked about; even before the Iraqi problems.

It must mean something. The meaning is quite clear and is that the Americans tend to focus on the MSU’s because for them the Italians are Carabinieri, not Army or Navy. The other forces such as the Army, the Navy, the Air force are more or less similar to the American forces. They do not, however, have a Carabinieri Corps and this explains their interest in this aspect. It is not that the Carabinieri are doing an important job. Americans focus on the aspect that is unknown to them because they are already acquainted with the Italian army. If on the one hand this explains how important this aspect is, because if the others ask us about it, it means that they look at it with great attention, on the other hand it does not mean that this asset is the only thing our military men have to worry about. Otherwise, as someone has already said, we can form an MSU staffed by 115,000 men and thus solve the problem. Actually I believe that the basic feature of an MSU, its birthmark, (and thus in no way marginal for it remains for life) is the fact that it is military.

I must mention the fact that the MSU does not mean Military Specialized Unit, but Multinational Specialized Unit, because Clark thought of it as a unit within SFOR, multinational because in SFOR everything is multinational, with some specialization (specialized means a specificity) not a special force, but a specialized one. And the specialization that we needed was originally one of Law & Order - because at the time Law & Order management was a problem in a country such as Bosnia, as well as activities that arose in time, such as territory control, criminal investigation when the problem of crime had become very important in Bosnia and in Kosovo for it also affected the general security of the military contingent operating there. I moreover believe, as Bellinzona pointed out, in his stabilization Law & Order enforcement and insurgency curve - in fact he was at that cross road in Bosnia when the MSU were created at the end of ’98. Three years later (we entered Bosnia at the end of ’94 not ’95) Clark’s troops were almost at the crossing or were beginning to believe they were approaching it and thus attention focused on security.

The SFOR peacekeeping tasks had been achieved and thus Clark started worrying about the problem of Law & Order, and the criminality that was jeopardizing the reconstruction and when he thought he was nearing that point of the curve and decided that the time had come to engage in these issues. Thus the birthmark, the imprinting, remains and according to this imprinting “the MSU is a military component because, as General Bellini recalled, we are a military status police force”. It is thus a military component operating in... what are its features? Why was the MSU created? Why wasn’t a civil police force created in Bosnia at the time? Because there are two characteristics: it has to have a police force nature, but civil police have police features; it also has to be able to operate in the context of a country where there still is a military presence, where there is a military force carrying out territory control functions: though there already was a legitimate Bosnian government, the SFOR Commander was a kind of military governor and was in fact in authority; the Bosnian government would have done nothing the SFOR Commander did not want. Thus, a sort of structure still strongly militarized and a military tool in a military chain of command, in a territory still militarized where the security could not be guaranteed by civil police forces.

The problem was not only that of having police capacities, but of guaranteeing these police capacities, or law and order, in a degraded theatre where a normal policeman or Carabiniere is highly at risk. This is the point and this is why the MSU was created. Because the Carabinieri were military men with combat training; they could act as a police force where an ordinary policeman would have been unable to survive, and also had military capacities allowing them to operate in a degraded environment. This is the soul of the MSU and this is what will remain because, as General Bellini pointed out, if we do other things there is no need for the MSU. This does not mean that the Carabinieri cannot be inserted into European police missions such as the PTF in Bosnia. I well remember that in the IPTF, there were Carabinieri: they carried IPTF written on their arms; there were also other Carabinieri with MSU written on their arms (as well as others with the writ MP - transcriptor’s note).

MSUs have the particular feature of being not only military (because the VPN Carabinieri were also military but were not a military structured force) but also a force with a military nature operating in the framework of a strong military presence on the territory, where a military presence is important for the control of the territory or where the territory is degraded. I see nothing wrong with the fact that this military force with initial law and order tasks, may later carry out criminal investigation tasks and all the other tasks mentioned by General Bellini, which go beyond these main categories. I do not believe in rigid formulas, in the inflexibility of tasks or in the rigidity of structural organizations. I thus deem that General Cecchi is right when he says: “in comparing Kosovo with the Dhi Khar province we always end up at the same point”. There was a conceptual debate over where the MSU should go in Iraq and under whom it should operate. The choice has been made made and I do not think this is the appropriate place to argue on this issue.

At the time whoever had the responsibility of defining the nature of the command, that is the Defense Chief of Staff, deemed it right to do what he did. In another situation the MSU would probably be placed at a higher level and what general Cecchi wanted to recall was that by comparing the Dhi Khar province to Kosovo, the military governor of that province is in fact the commander of the Italian national contingent and thus, in a way, in that province it could have been considered as the same thing on an operational level. That is the level that Guido spoke of when recalling the timeliness of the intervention. MSUs must necessarily be conceptually equalled more to a support combat force than to a mere maneuver unit and generally speaking a combat support force tends to be considered at the level of the Commander’s hand (as our colleagues like to say) and not at the level of a maneuver unit Commander and thus tends to be a more conceptually managed asset. In these matters, however, it is better not to be dogmatic. We should have the intelligence and the trust to understand that whoever decides on a chain of command may make mistakes (because one can always make mistakes) but he will have to decide on the best position to take considering all the available factors as a whole.

We may debate over the matter, but we do not always have to take sides: this will depend on the situation. To insist dogmatically on how things have to be is not always correct. I believe (and I have already defined it when I said that I believe that the MSUs is a combat support type unit, which does not mean a “combat” unit) that it would be better if the MSUs were at a certain level of command. However, this level of command varies from one situation to another. In certain circumstances it can be equalled to a brigade command or even lower. No dogmatism, therefore, over this issue, though firmly maintaining the characteristics of the MSUs, as well as the fact that the MSU tasks may be extended: nulla quaestio. If there is a MSU unit in a certain operational theatre, under a military chain of command and the famous civil representative decides that there are tasks that can be carried out by the MSU there is no harm in letting it carry out these tasks in co-operation with the civil authorities. However, when the military structure leaves the country, the MSU, like it or not, changes completely. We can no longer call it MSU: it becomes a police mission. If need be, it will be able to carry out criminal investigations.

At this point the stabilization curve has changed so much that it can be carried out by IPU (Integrated Police Unit) as the French called it during the famous debate on what would happen to the MSU in Bosnia after SFOR. It will go under civil control if that is what they want. At that point, however, it will no longer be an MSU and thus the Carabinieri, who want to have the control of everything regarding police outside the homeland in Europe, will have to realize that they either go abroad as Carabinieri, though civil, or they cannot go at all. There is no two ways about it. MSUs cannot become something else, their basic characteristic being that of a military status police force within a militarized territory. At this point there may be other characteristics. I believe that this is the divide and I thus believe that the debate (while I was driving here our ambassador called me to discuss a document and what the IPU and the IPU style should be) over the compromise we have just reached CLOSING WORK says that when EUFOR will replace SFOR in Bosnia there will be a military component called MSU that the European Union may not want to call MSU because of the sensitiveness of certain countries, but there will be an MSU called IPU style, but still an MSU because of its military structure, and it will be under the EUFOR unit commander.

This unit will be able to carry out tasks on request by the civil representative and the military commander will have no difficulty in adhering to the request. However, should the stabilization curve in Bosnia shift and the military component come out, the latter would change completely: it would lose its MSU features and will become something else. This does not mean that the Carabinieri, together with other non military status police forces, could not compete as they do today in the European police international missions, just as they now do in the EPTF, the TPHE and so forth. At this point, however, it is no longer an MSU because the MSUs have one basic characteristic: they are a military status police force within an important military presence contrary to an integrated police. What I have said so far is my point of view, which may of course change in time, but which I believe was necessary to make these important issues clear. Thank you.


(*) - Transcript from an audio recording corrected by the author.
(**) - Admiral, Chief of General Staff of the Defense.