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Lt. Gen. Filiberto Cecchi

I would first like to thank the General Commander of the Carabinieri Officer Academy for having invited me to this seminar, offering me the opportunity of debating an issue of great interest in such a numerous and qualified assembly. Of course it is not easy to add to what has already been said by the honourable lecturers who have just spoken before me, among whom commanders of operational theatres who, having MSU departments at their command, have been able to verify their efficiency on the terrain. Therefore, all I can do is complete the picture, though already very positive, drawn during the previous briefings and setting forth some considerations deriving from my personal experience as deputy commander of KFOR in 2001 and as top inter-force operational Commander, position I have been covering for the last two years. As already mentioned there is no doubt that the Carabinieri, because of their bivalent juridical status and their particular institutional tasks, have absolutely peculiar and in some way exclusive characteristics that make them a prestigious component of the military tool. Such peculiarities and characteristics, which may be summed into the two souls, military and police, have been harmoniously merged into MSU formations, which managed to distinguish themselves as highly appreciated tools at international level for their importance and flexibility in peace support operations (PSO) or crises reconstruction operations (CRO) especially as the linking element between true and proper military operations and activities in support of local communities and reconstruction of the civilian tissue in crisis areas.

The governing structure of the MSU regiments itself, based on the operational and manoeuvring component, may be employed in a vast and multifarious range of tasks from the typical ones of public order and security to those of terrorism and criminality, as well as those regarding the assistance to local police forces. All this in an environment marked by high indexes of instability and risk and within complex military operations, almost always carried out in inter-force and multinational contexts. In particular, the extraordinary professionalism and the age-old experience matured by the Carabinieri in the field of public order make them, in the hands of the commander, a precious component capable of facing situations of unrest due to riots among the population or mass demonstrations, often violent, which are all but rare in areas of crisis. In these cases, experience has proved that the intervention, sometimes even the presence alone, of the MSU units, far more than the massive deployment of military divisions, contributes to defuse without bloodshed potentially explosive situations of tension. Moreover, the investigative activity in the field of criminality and terrorist organisations is deeply rooted in the very structure of the Carabinieri who, in carrying out the specific mission employ highest quality human resources and materials and a specific info-investigative system closely linked to similar national and international organisations. This is an extraordinarily important activity, which transferred to the operational theatre represents a determining contribution to the security and stability of the crisis area.

Another field where MSU divisions can give excellent results is in giving support to local police by means of a triad of training, monitoring and mentoring interventions designed to train and equip newly recruited agents and sustain them during operations, helping them to become credible and reliable in the eyes of the people as future protagonists of social and civil growth of one’s country. 78 It is not surprising that the creation and the use of multinational specialized units by Italy was greeted with enthusiasm at international level and that the commanders of the operational theatres consider this unit as a precious support to their command, apt to cover the extremely delicate and sometimes undefined “grey area” linking classic operational activities and support and control initiatives of civil and social order, which are integrating part of any peace support mission.

It is wise, however, to underline the fact that the insertion and use of MSU units within inter-force and multinational contingents is not devoid of difficulties and requires the adoption of tactics and provisions made necessary by the specificity and the characteristics of the different components at stake. I refer to those provisions suggested by the multi-annual experience of “outside” missions, which must be carefully considered by military planners and commanders to avoid a wrong and improper use of such precious resources. Firstly, military commanders in charge of the operational control must guarantee the knowledge of the capacities, potentialities and limits of these bodies, This must not be taken for granted since in general the “operational surveyor” is an officer of another armed force and does not always have the knowledge and experience necessary to rule MSU units at best. Conversely, Carabinieri officers who take the leadership of an MSU must be perfectly aware of missions and tasks, as well as of employment criteria and tactic procedures of the national and foreign units they have to work with. The need for this reciprocal understanding must be satisfied, obviously, by exchanging information, joint training and the organisation of joint and combined exercises and initiatives such as this seminar may be very useful to this aim. Moreover, it is of the utmost importance to guarantee interoperability, if not integration, of communication and command and control systems of the MSU units with those of superior and collateral military commands and of local and international police forces in the area, bearing in mind that the Carabinieri’s info-investigative system must also be able to interact in a mutual exchange with the architecture of the operational intelligence created by the military commands in the theatre since criminality, terrorist armed groups and regular enemy formations are part of a single aspect of the security and stability threat in the crisis area.

It is therefore a matter of creating a single integrated system under the theatre operational commander where land task forces and MSU act in close coordination. Special attention must be given to the definition of the MSU division task organisation, which must be carefully balanced on the basis of the mission to be carried out, the typology of the operational theatre, the progress of the crisis area stabilisation process. Thus not a rigid structure, but flexible and ready to adapt, during the mission if necessary, to the development of the situation on the terrain by a clever dosage of the operational and manoeuvre components and of the single constitutive cells. Lastly, a structure apt to receive, both as regards command staff and employment divisions, personnel of other allied countries and friends to fully take on a multinational aspect. In conclusion, let us consider the command and control organisation. To carry out its function in the best possible manner, the MSU unit must have enough freedom of action and manoeuvre to allow it to spread the presence of its “sensors” as far as possible over the territory, widen its intelligence and investigative network, even beyond the limits of the sector under its responsibility and keep constantly in touch with local populations and institutions.

Due to its high specialisation, which makes it a limited and precious resource, it operates directly under a multinational or national interforce commander who is in charge of a well-defined area of responsibility. It is not rare, however, that for particular missions and on explicit national delegation, it may be employed, as a whole or in part, at a higher level as well. A debate was opened recently within Nato and the European Union regarding the opportunity of placing MSU units under the direction of civilian authorities representing the international community in the region concerned by the crisis. I have no intention to deepen the issue, but I would like to underline the fact that such a hypothesis would mean the use, foreseen by the European Union within the IPU (Integrated Police Units), in situations of advanced stabilisation of the crisis area where a military presence plays a role of mere deterrence and the Carabinieri units are part of the assets of the multinational police established with this in mind. In this case however, I do not believe we can continue to talk of MSU, at least as it is understood by military planners.

I will close this brief intervention, aware of having just skimmed over important aspects regarding the use of MSU units, which represent a true added value integrating and enhancing the capacities of the Italian armed forces in their intense and burdensome task in the most multifarious and critical operational theatres in favour of peace, stability and international security.


(*) - Lieutenant General, Commander of the Joint-Forces Top Operational Command.