From our correspondent in Herat – Enter the perimeter of Arena field difficult not to be seized by a sense of melancholy dismay. A waste of resources, hopes, projects, energies that exceeds all imagination. This was for fifteen years the main Italian military base in Afghanistan. About three months after the withdrawal of the last contingent, it shows the sad and abandoned face of a sensational defeat, costing billions and for all intents and purposes absolutely useless. You Italians, together with the Americans and the other components of the international coalition, have guaranteed a lot of aid to the Afghan security forces: weapons, training, logistical support. For you did not give them a fundamental element: the will to fight, the morale to resist. Their defeat was inevitable, he says Mohammad Israil, the Taliban commander today in control of the civil airport, who on August 13 entered in a completely peaceful way through the main gate of Campo Arena and since then has been responsible for its custody, without however knowing what to do with everything that still contains.
A hasty escape
Pass through the old parade ground where the ceremonies for the succession of contingents and their commanders took place, visit the dusty premises of the canteen, the dormitories, the bars, the pizzerias, the gyms, you will discover the consequences of a evacuation which here appears rather a hasty escape. There are dormitories still fully functional, with camp beds, mattresses, pillows. In the containers used as deposits there are thousands and thousands of intact water bottles, whole chests of paper cups and cutlery kits for the canteen, mountains of stationery items, bags of pasta and flour, medical and sanitary materials, food rations. food. Some offices seem to have been abandoned only yesterday, with intact photocopiers, comfortable ergonomic armchairs, whiteboards with written activity programs. Some are dated to the last days of June. In the bathrooms there are signs with the anti-Covid indications and dozens of ready-to-use disinfectants remain on the sinks. It is unclear how much all of this was purposely left in gift to the Afghan army, which in early July took over the base, or simply it was decided to leave it to speed up the departure. Of course the Afghans made a bad use of it. As soon as the Italians left, the corrupt Afghan military organized 16 trucks to transport what remained of value to the base and sell it on the black market. throughout the province of Herat. It was a full-blown robbery, civil servants at the airport say. A story that is repeated in series in the various bases abandoned by contingents throughout the country.
No signs of battle
For us capturing Campo Arena was a breeze. There had been some gun battles on the outskirts of Herat in early August. But, when our commanders ordered to advance, the approximately 200 soldiers remaining in the former Italian base left without firing a shot. We found a lot of abandoned uniforms. At eight in the morning of August 13, we took the airport and everything that was close to it, says Israil again. There are no battle marks around it, not a bullet hole, the perimeter walls are intact. The Taliban commander confesses that since then this is only the second time he has entered the heart of the Italian base. He asks to see some old photos to understand what it was like. He is amazed by the wealth of means and materials. It cannot be understood by the massive presence of shelters covered with sandbags and anti-mortar concrete bunkers. In practice we have never fired on this field. You wasted a lot of money defending yourself, he says. And he smiles when an inscription on the stairs of the dormitories is translated. Hold on to the handrail, it reads. But do you have to give these instructions to your soldiers? He exclaims. In the kitchen area, a gigantic wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano rots in the still scorching sun. In the Rivoli pavilion the dormitories of local interpreters they still have their names hanging on the doors. Scattered on the floor are half-new clothes, tennis shoes, and tactical boots. In one of the gyms you will find weight lifting machines and stacks of mattresses for floor exercises. Maybe these guerrillas, who have won a twenty-year war in slippers, will start training.
18 September 2021 | 21:42
© REPRODUCTION RESERVED