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Brig. Gen. Arturo Esposito

So far the speakers have faced the various aspects regarding the employment of the MSUs: from their asset to their tasks, from their proven capacities to the potentials they can express within pacification operations, to which our country contributes ever more frequently. Since 1998 when the first MSU regiment was deployed in Bosnia, our tasks have gradually increased. Today in fact the three regiments employed in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq besides being engaged in crowd control, play a determining role in other qualified sectors. Nowadays the main tasks regard the collection and analysis of information on organized crime that the regiments are responsible for as Force Protection and antiterrorism, the investigation into offences linked to such crimes, area patrol, the release of hostages and the repression of snipers, the extraction of protected people, the assistance to returning refugees as well as the support to the reconstruction of local police forces.

Because of their particular nature the MSUs represent a precious resource in those crisis area where it is necessary to activate functions apt to “replace the fight” with the aim of reestablishing conditions for a civil co-habitation, thus exporting those characteristics and operational models that traditionally belong to the Carabinieri Corps in the homeland such as the military police force with standing public security tasks.

The basic characteristic of the Carabinieri Corps is its operational flexibility that allows to conceive the MSUs on a modular basis targeted to satisfy the demands linked to the operational ambits and the tasks of each single mission by balancing the different components (information, investigation and specialization). Indeed it is due to these capacities that the MSUs are able to adapt easily to the evolution of their tasks. Though tasks have increased in time, the intervention capacities regarding law and order remain a basic aspect of the MSU units. In fact, in this respect the recent serious episodes of bloodshed in the Balkans confirmed the vocation of the MSU units and their functional model. Actually, NATO, called to face the degenerating situation in Mitroviza after the assassination of three Albanian children, first decided to strengthen its presence by enhancing the MSU asset deployed to better cope with the serious upheavals.

Thus, a few hours after the occurred facts, two Carabinieri companies deployed in the MSU in Sarajevo were air-carried to Pristina and immediately employed on the street to restrain thousands of demonstrators. Besides public order, another important activity is represented by the control of the territory, which is achieved by patrolling the area in view of preventing threats by experimented means based on being close to the population and monitoring the critical points in terms of law and order, thus reaching the “environmental contact” so typical of the Carabiniere’s professionalism. Due to its particular aims, the activity carried out by the Specialized Units varies substantially from the activity carried out by the combat unit, targeted to prevent and restrain the military threat and monitor the sources. The repressive intervention too is carried out according to the classical police force’s operational modalities and is thus hardly ever lethal and strictly tailored to the force that needs to be driven back. This belongs to the traditional cultural and professional heritage of police forces to which the Carabinieri Corps can add its military capacities.

The basic differences arisen during this seminar lead us to consider how the areal patrol carried out by the MSUs and by the combat units must not be considered as overlapping, but as necessary. In fact by exploiting the respective potentials the 206 two activities must and can be employed to establish a rational and integrated territory control system, which is absolutely necessary for the general security of the area for which they are responsible. I need not repeat that these conditions regard the MSU’s capacity to maintain a great autonomy and a vast freedom of maneuver in the entire area of operations. The MSU in fact is a strategic resource, which must be kept in hand by the Interforce Theatre Commander and employed in support to and as specialized integration of the activity carried out by the units in charge of controlling portions of the territory.

We have already seen that the MSU develops consequently as a practical experience, initially devoid of a normative-conceptual establishment to support it, which, in time, marked the boundaries of the MSU operational military function now defined as “combat replacement function” to be carried out where it is necessary to start a military response with the approach and the tools typical of a police force and this due to the non military nature of the threat and its main source (civil population). The mission of an MSU is thus the creation of a safe environment for the Force and the safeguard of military operations from non military threats. Operation orders and the achievement of the technical and tactic procedures needed for the employment of the Unit have anticipated and set the foundations for the MSU doctrine, which later develops on the basis of experiences gained in a bottom to top process. However, for the Carabinieri Corps the MSU is not only participation to the national effort to contribute to the pacification of the most tortured areas of the globe.

After 11 September, aware of its great potentials the General Command of the Carabinieri Corps decided to invest further resources in the MSU regiments, convinced as it is that the commitment in the operational theatres is, also and above all, an advanced defense for the Country as regards all forms of crime and especially terrorism that, in several of those areas, finds fertile ground for its development. In fact the informative potentials offered by the presence of such qualified sensors are useless. Nowadays, the MSUs are determining assets for the collection of information in the various operational theatres as they supply sensible data for the elaboration of analyses, also in respect of the assessment of threats to contrast phenomena of organized crime, terrorism, drug traffic. In view of the above the General Command, aware that the multifarious risks regarding the present global scenario of the areas from where the threat comes, require the development of an “advanced informative activity”, guarantees a close connection with the organizations that elaborate information, both domestically and internationally, by intensifying cooperation relations to exchange information.

To confirm the above, I wish to recall the arrest of Jarraya KHALIL occurred in Bologna in February 2002. The man had been wanted for several years as the main person responsible for a net funding Islamic terrorism in Spain, Germany, France, Belgium and Italy by traffic of weapons, and forged documents and currency. The important operation was in fact carried out by the ROS activated by the MSU-FOR regiment that informed them of his imminent return to Italy from Bosnia where he had taken shelter. It is thus obvious that the informative capacities of the MSU units enhance their skill in coping with tasks typical of all future peacekeeping activity, in which the Country may want to spend a valid and efficient operational resource. As regards the foreseeable increase of the demands, the General Command is actively engaged in looking for international co-operation apt to contribute by forces that, like the Carabinieri, have military capacities and an infoinvestigative culture.


(*) - Brigadier General, Commander of the Carabinieri Regional Command of Sicily.