“We must follow the Italian example. All the allies, including ourselves, must form a Corps like the Carabinieri”: on 26 February USA NATO ambassador, Nicholas Burns, synthetically expressed with these words Washington’s assessment of the MSU and the Carabinieri who represent the model of the police force to employ in missions abroad. The positive impact of the MSUs and the significance of tools of this kind in contemporary operational theatres are enhanced also within the European Union that after the 1999 Helsinki summit started a programme to establish a police force of 5000 men that could quickly be employed overseas while more recently a plan to establish a European Gendarmerie force formed by military status police with specific MSU tasks was begun. When commenting the establishment of the new Anglo-French rapid reaction forces, a recently tested military tool that caused great perplexity among European partners, a British analyst stated that “these forces are open to contributions from other countries and especially to the Carabinieri in the field of the MSUs”. The idea of MSU seems destined to confirm and renew its validity regarding the challenges to be faced in the immediate future, as proved by the general staff of the major western powers. “Enduring Freedom” and “Iraqi Freedom” confirmed that no conventionally organized military force can stop or simply hinder Anglo- Americans or more generally speaking Westerners on the battle field.
Campaigns carried out after 11 September have restated that the true challenge for the Western world is not only winning wars on the battle field, but mainly regards the capacity to maintain the control of the territory after victory guaranteeing stability and security as the essential basis for the material and political reconstruction. Many Western countries, NATO and the European Union are reorganizing their national military forces and their multinational tools (NRF e FERR) in order to face scenarios mainly marked by the following: - high social, ethnic and religious tensions; - contrast to enemy forces highly skilled in guerilla warfare and terrorism; - tight correlation with international subversive networks and organized criminality; - intense illegal activities financing and supporting terrorist and guerilla activities; - dire economic conditions of the population; - possible presence of weapons of mass destruction mainly used for terrorist attacks. Situations similar to those found in the Balkans and in Somalia before that, in 1993/94, when the need for a multinational police force was greatly felt especially after the UNO blue berets (mostly belonging to third world countries) showed their incapacity to manage civil crowds used by the War Lords as maneuver mass in Mogadishu.
There the Carabinieri succeeded in giving rise to a programme that allowed to train a Somali police force. A few years later in the Balkans, NATO requested the development of an MSU underlining on the one hand the difficulties encountered by conventional armed forces in coping with problems of public order and on the other hand the incapacity of UNO police forces (IPTF in Bosnia and UNMIK Police in Kosovo) to carry out a true operational role in public order and security (not very homogeneous and formed by elements from all over the world with different cultures and procedures, devoid of weapons, deterrence capacity and logistic autonomy). The skills expressed by the MSUs mainly regard police activity (including antiriot, investigation and the fight against organized criminality), antiterrorism, escorts and Humint. 188 If we add their capacities of a military type of self defense, logistic autonomy and the ability to train, support and assist local police it appears obvious that the MSUs are designed to become a fundamental asset in the operational theatres of the aftermath of the 11 September and in the future scenarios that may possibly involve the Western world.
Besides the Afghan and Iraqi theatres, which see the involvement both of Italy and the Carabinieri, it is interesting to note that in all the countries where the Anglo-Americans have developed forms of intervention to contrast terrorism or support local governments, units formed by military police (which assist special forces such as CIMIC and intelligence) have been deployed just as FBI offices have been opened in countries that have joined the Coalition to underline the importance of co-operation in investigation and police tasks meant to contrast the present threat. In fact, in view of a global fight against an already globalized terrorism, it is natural that police and investigation structures should be present even in the farthest operational theatres of the West where in many cases precious information has been gathered for the seizure of subversive elements and the neutralization of cells. The theatres of today and presumably of tomorrow will thus require the presence of MSUs of a vaster dimension than the ones employed so far in the Balkans due to the larger territorial extension of countries concerned in the interventions, marked by strong ethnic and religious differences on a regional scale, equipped with scarce infrastructures and communication systems, where a vast and homogeneous coverage especially in the presence of widespread and hardly identifiable threats will have to be guaranteed.
In Iraq the CJTF 7 reports in Baghdad have long proved the need for forces capable of coping with problems of anti-terrorism and public order and security with professionalism. The United States are facing this challenge with the available tools: the units’ rotation provides for a deployment of lighter units in Iraq, especially marines, institutionally trained for operations in an urban ambit and to contrast civil mobs and which led the inter-force programme for the acquisition of non lethal weapons. Washington is aware of the limits of the national forces as regards public order and security and actually asked the Cartabinieri to devise a plan to reorganize its own military police with antiriot functions. Similar programmes are underway in many Eastern European countries. At the start of the stabilization stage in Iraq the Pentagon hypothesized the establishment of a Coalition police force around the Carabinieri and the same idea was advanced in London though limited to the territorial competencies of the South Eastern Multinational Division of which the Italian contingent is also part.
Neither request was followed up both because of national political assessments and the limited forces that the Carabinieri could deploy in the theatre. Yet the Nassiryah attack tragically proved the importance of the MSUs and may be read as the will of terrorists to strike not only the Italians, but the Carabinieri in particular who with the capillarity of their support to the local police and the prevention and contrast of all unlawful activity hindered the initiatives of subversive groups maintaining, with their bases, a constant and tangible presence in the very heart of Nassiryah. The increase in the MSU staff will thus be an important challenge as well as the opportunity to consolidate the development of a multinational order equipped with common procedures and doctrine. Though formed by military police of the “gendarmerie” type that has in common culture, procedure and training, the MSUs may, if need be, employ conventional military units specifically trained as nowadays many armies (including the Italian one) train their units for the upkeep of public order.
The MSUs can have a decisive impact on the operational theatre, obviously placed within a vast military organization, but their efficacy chiefly depends on the insertion in the Chain of Command and Control under the direct leadership of theatre military top management, the Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, as already occurred in Bosnia and Kosovo. The above guaranteed the MSUs the capacity to operate in its special sector with a vast autonomy, over the entire theatre, devoid of limiting and conditioning elements. In Iraq the MSU (formed by Italian Carabinieri and Portuguese and Rumanian military police) only operates in the Province of Dhi Khar and under the command of the Italian Brigade, thus with a reduced autonomy that has in many cases limited its use to specialized functions, especially in the first months of the “Ancient Babylon” operation. On certain occasions more than an observer sensed that there was a true and proper “rivalry” between the Army and the Carabinieri regarding the management of public security operations, especially during demonstrations and mob gatherings when pensions or retributions to former Iraqi military men were paid out. An external observer hardly understands such rivalry as the MSUs have specific skills that are an important pawn for the military contingents manning the operational theatre, and can certainly not replace them.
In future, on vast theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan a projection structure at Brigade level could be employed (already foreseen for the Second Mobile Brigade of the Carabinieri) under whose leadership Regiment/Battalion level units would operate, deployed to cover the regions assigned to Division Commands If we applied this scheme to the Iraqi theatre we would have an MSU Brigade Command in Baghdad, within the CJTF-7, from which four MSU regiment/battalions would depend and be available for the commanders of the divisions covering the entire Iraqi territory with the result that we would have greater homogeneity in investigative, intelligence and terrorist threat contrast activities and a standard training of local security forces.
The sensitiveness that Anglo-Americans show in respect of the MSUs allows Italy and, generally speaking, Europe to have a pawn of great importance in the political field as well for it gives us the opportunity to cover the sole big military scarcity of our most important allies. I believe politicians should take this aspect into serious consideration. At a time when Anglo-Americans move at the border of unilateralism, strengthened not only by their military capacities, but also by their political determination, an exclusive and precious tool such as the MSU represents for Italy and Europe a valuable card in support of the allies on the two shores of the Atlantic.
In view of the above considerations that regard our capacity to produce security and stability on a global scale, I hereby conclude with two auspices. As an European, I hope there is an increasing multinational integration of the MSUs as a qualified part of the old Continent’s contribution to the solution of crises As a Italian, I hope that the development of the tools apt to manage public order and security in the operational theatres may contribute to consolidate, and not undermine, the interforce spirit.
(*) - Chief responsible for the Defence Analysis.