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  • Media & Comunicazione
  • Rassegna dell'Arma
  • La Rassegna
  • Anno 2004
  • Supplemento al N.4
  • English Version
  • IVth Session

Dr. Andrea Nativi

If you allow me to start this presentation by provoking you intellectually I could maintain that Italy could well do without Armed Forces with projection capacities and could task the MSUs with its contribution to the upkeep of security and the defense of interests shared outside its boundaries Indeed, even the best equipped and trained armed forces are of little use unless there is the political will to employ them for the primary tasks they are supposed to carry out. In the case of Italy, I do not see this will, apart from the ritual declarations either in the present government and even less so in the opponents. Perhaps public opinion is more in favour of intervention, but the powerful media are most certainly in favour of a misunderstood isolationist policy, self-destructive and short-sighted. The MSUs would be perfect for an international military role beside the allies, but would have to be careful to enter action only when war operations are definitely over.

Considering that few of the allies have a police force with the consistency of the Carabinieri Corps, our contribution could be greatly appreciated. The above launches us directly into the issue. According to me the MSUs are a “novelty” that satisfy in an original manner a demand that is as old as the war itself: maintaining law and order and applying the law (better still, a law) in the theatre of operations where what are now called CRO/PSO missions take place. Once these tasks were first given directly to regular occupation armies; later we turned to police forces or local co-operation formations. Of course, as the combat forces were reserved true and proper combat tasks such as the antiguerrilla warfare, police roles were passed on as soon as possible to the military police who could rely on extra men supplied by garrison units when necessary. The transfer of powers and functions to the new civil authorities was gradual and the military occupation stage and martial law enforcement could last for a long time: suffice it to think of what happened in Germany and Japan and, in some way, in Italy too, as well as in many other countries “liberated” at the end of the Second World War.

Probably nowadays there is too much haste in wanting to assign local or international civil authorities powers and competencies that they cannot exercise. I deem that we could avoid many problems if these developments were gradual and the transfer of power occurred only when the new authorities were really ready to carry out the tasks assigned to them, though even with all the external support. The military authorities should detain the normal powers assigned to an occupying army until the time when all good intentions can be followed by actual capacities. Many problems, in the Balkans and elsewhere, could have been avoided if we ha proceeded in compliance with the “old” concept. But let us go back to the object of this intervention. The MSUs are undoubtedly specialized support forces allowing the mission commander to employ “combat” forces to guarantee a security framework that is absolutely necessary for a return to normal conditions, and delegate the responsibility of managing law and order to other forces.

The MSUs do not carry out “combat” functions, nor are they suited to face organized guerrilla warfare, but crime, the disbanded, who may be very dangerous when there is a power void or a transition from the old to the new system. That is “normal” police tasks. As regards the fight against terrorism, we should talk of co-operation between combat forces and specialized police forces. 180 There are no doubts over the fact that the military asset of the MSUs is excellent; civil police forces are unsuitable for this role, and in particular they cannot be inserted within a military command structure as their organization, mentality, procedures, training and chain of command are entirely different. What is debatable instead is whether the MSUs should be separate and different from military police formations.

In Italy we have the Carabinieri Corps, but this organization cannot easily be compared to any other for the role it plays, its organization, its powers and the staff it employs (not to speak of the rank of armed force), which also carries out classical military police tasks. The countries that cannot conceive the existence of police forces with a military asset will continue to give military police and MSU roles to military police formations created essentially within their respective armies, even though each armed force generally has its own military police component, or will otherwise assign the specific MSU role to army troops. We can furthermore debate whether the latter should be supplied by the component in active service or by the reserve/national guard and whether it is necessary to provide for a specific formation, training, equipment and doctrine. The latest events occurred in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq led many countries to debate over the opportunity of enhancing military police units or indeed creating military formations specialized in the aftermath of war.

In fact, the countries that have nothing equivalent to the Carabinieri will have to assign the control of domestic law and order to traditional military police units and extend competencies and staff to “standard” soldiers. The lack of a military asset police force does not jeopardize the carrying out of tasks that traditionally come under the classic roles of an occupying army. In this sector, however, Italy has the advantage of being able to rely on the Carabinieri whose consistency - over 112,000 men and women, will be greater than the staff foreseen for the professional army of the future. The law that has provided for the re-organization of the Carabinieri’s tasks and structure assigns them, though not exclusively, tasks related to 181 LECTURES BY DOCTOR NATIVI ENGLISH domestic security within PSO/CRO operations and a school of thought tends to sustain the hypothesis that MSU forces should be different and separated from the classical military police forces.

It would be nice to have a “dedicated” tool, but this is not indispensable and is only possible if the consistency of the staff of police forces with a military asset is truly elevated. Personally, I look favourably to specialization, but only if it is not an obstacle to the achievement of foreseen tasks and functions. In particular, the difference between military police forces engaged in combat support and MSUs that play a separate role of “ordinary police” is a luxury few can afford, as long as the MSUs also supply combat support, guaranteeing internal security in the theatre of operations. Obviously the MSUs will support and operate at the operative theatre command, which, in the after war period at least, tends to coincide with the Land Component commander. The theatre commander, in general, but not necessarily, could rely on a quota of special joint/combined forces. However if the MSU or the Special Forces are missing, operations will be carried out without them.

In these cases the commander will assign police tasks to the military police if staff is sufficient or, conversely, to standard soldiers. The American doctrine recently envisaged the possibility that the Special Forces Command play the role of Lead Service, supported in certain circumstances. It is however an exceptional matter. Nothing similar is foreseen in Europe: Special Forces are the Commander’s strategic asset. No one thinks of assigning the MSUs the dignity of “service”. The MP/MSU’s will however have a limited consistency within the complex of forces deployed in the theatre. We are speaking of significant numbers, considering that the ratio can reach 1:10 as compared to the total of the forces, according to the conditions of the terrain. As I am very attentive to the practical and actual aspects, I wish to explain what it means to assign MSUs important law and order tasks during PSO/CRO operations. It means having thousands of soldiers trained to operate abroad in difficult environmental, logistic and security conditions, with a good knowledge of foreign languages, the capacity of maintaining a strict neutrality, the awareness that a single mistake could have devastating political and strategic consequences.

The most delicate task is not so much contrasting ordinary crime, but maintaining law and order with the awareness that an apparently “simple” situation, a trivial authorized demonstration, could easily degenerate into an open conflict, an act of guerrilla warfare, a battle. We see this daily in Iraq. If we think that the MSUs can end up by acting and operating like the “Nassiriyah 11/9” we will meet with serious trouble. Procedures, equipment, mentality must all be different, aware that the MSUs may suddenly become the object of conventional military attacks, guerrilla warfare or terrorist attacks. It is not a matter of carrying out the job of ordinary police as in the fatherland. Well-trained staff is needed, capable of adding solid military training to the knowledge typical of the tutor of law and order, suitably armed and equipped with means and resources suited for the situation and the threat. According to me the reference model is the French Gendarmerie, which has already specialized its men into two components: the traditional territorial one and another one particularly fit to carry out more dangerous operations or act in risky situations and public order control operations. Obviously, the men belonging to the latter go abroad more than the others, but they are penalized as regards logistics and end up by relying on the army.

I believe that the Carabinieri Corps too should make a choice of this kind. Until recently, the Carabinieri had neglected the public order control activity. It must be borne in mind that once the mobile battalions had a strong combat nature (they had tanks, armoured vehicles for the transport of troops, heavy vehicles) with the marked subsidiary/integrative functions of the Army units, aware that in case of crisis/invasion the guerrilla/order enforcement operations might have required forces with high combat capacities. In the course of time these characteristics dissolved and the point was reached when public order departments were based on conscripts, often willing and at the height of their physical and hormonal energy, but certainly not gifted with particular capacities, training, experience or juridical sensitiveness. Meanwhile, and until rather recently, not even the equipment was adequately modernized. Today, after the Genoa G8 and the 11/9, with the ruling out of the mandatory service and a forced professionalization, we have the opportunity for a radical change.

I deem that public order units should be trained to operate in “foreign areas” and have an advanced and specialized military training, be equipped with a complete range of armaments, from the most modern tools for the safeguard of law and order and riot control to passive protections and non lethal weapons to firearms that have to reach the standards foreseen for light infantry, if we do not wish to be outgunned. The answer seems to be the concept of a double/treble allocation. The same as regards means and vehicles. If the MSUs carry out police tasks, besides public order units they will also need highly specialized pawns and a reduced numeric consistency. However, I am convinced that this staff too can simply be drawn from the national territorial units, subjected to a period of intensive dedicated training and then sent to the theatre. The pre-employment conditioning should be measured in months rather than in weeks. Mafia, camorra, Red Brigades are dangerous, but what we have to face during the PSO/CRO missions in foreign areas is entirely different. GIS and TUSCANIA represent the exception. Moreover, if Italy and the Carabinieri Corps really want a lead role within NATO, they must be ready to employ sufficient forces to justify this ambition. Philosophy is important, but only if supported by numbers.

To stop joking and become serious we need consistent units apt to go on missions in foreign areas with at least 3,000 men capable of sustaining this effort over a lengthy period of time.This means having 10-12,000 specialized and trained soldiers, which today are just not available. Just as there is no true and proper training centre where the men can be trained in realistic situations with consistent formations. At present, the understaffed units of the “projection” forces are re-peopled ad occasionem by drawing men among volunteers of the territorial units who reach almost anywhere, follow a brief training course and are then sent to the theatre. 184 4th SESSION - PERSPECTIVES This is true both for specialistic components and for public order units. A dangerous choice indeed, dictated by the emergency, both for those taking part in these operations without being sufficiently trained and for the units and the organizations who rely on these men, beyond al their good will. If each MSU regiment sustains a mission by rotating its basic pawns, platoons and companies for months on end, the total output cannot but be limited and the department has no time to carry out complex training activities. In fact, today the Carabinieri Corps cannot go beyond the threshold of 1,500 men on a mission, considering both the public order component and the specialistic one. To rotate entire regiments, the staff pool assigned must be larger.

This is no news. When it had a reduced number of volunteers and too many missions the Army too was compelled to form compound units and rotate the regiments, but not the brigade commands. Besides the operative forces a dedicated logistic organization is needed to guarantee the functioning of consistent forces over a long period of time, thousands of miles from the permanent bases. It is true that the MSUs do not have the consumption and the logistic needs of a combat department in war, it is likewise true that to maintain a department in public order action for more than 36 hours on a run without change is not an usual procedure, but considering that this may be necessary, the simple non combat support activity, the support to means and consumption materials may become very exacting if 500 or 12,000 men are deployed on the terrain 3-4,000 km from home. Needless to say that all this is expensive, very expensive and the budget of the Carabinieri Corps is not particularly consistent, especially as regards investments for means and materials.

In conclusion, the concept of the MSUs, now that we have given up the idea of turning them into a duplicate of the army, is interesting, but if we wish to stop joking the Corps should revise both organization and philosophy. Considering that we cannot do everything, this means giving up competing, pardon me, co-operating on an equal footing with the PS in the domestic theatre.

If, conversely, this is not the intention, it would be better to re-size our ambitions within NATO and internationally where more than ever before what really counts are actual capacities, well beyond the value of ideas and proposals because what is at stake is far worse than a bad impression.

(*) - Chief of the Italian Review/Journal of Defence.