Rome: Italy wants to expand its troop presence in Afghanistan by more than a third, Italian media quoted Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa as saying Saturday during a meeting with US General David Petraeus in Milan.
"We have decided to increase our contingent in Afghanistan to 4,000 troops by the end of the year," he said.
Italy currently has some 2,800 soldiers participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had repeatedly promised to deploy more soldiers this year for a limited time to the war-torn country.
An additional deployment of military trainers early next year is not to be ruled out either, in a bid to hand over regions in the west of the country to Afghan troops by the end of 2011, La Russa added.
Petraeus, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, was said to have emphatically welcomed during the meeting with La Russa reported peace negotiations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Taliban fighters.
The expectation, however, is that the Taliban would have to meet Karzai`s conditions and cut all links to Al Qaeda and international terrorism, Petraeus reportedly said.