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Kragar10/16/2009 2:28:11 pm PDT

United States admits tackling Italians over payments to the Taleban

A senior US official confirmed, two days after The Times reported that Italian authorities had paid the bribes, that “the issue [of payments] was raised with the Italians”.

The official would neither confirm nor deny that the representation to Silvio Berlusconi’s Government was in the form of a dmarche or diplomatic protest, but Nato officials have told The Times that such a complaint was made by the US in Rome last year.

The payment of Italian protection money was revealed after the deaths of ten French soldiers in August 2008 at the hands of a large Taleban force in Sarobi, east of Kabul. French forces had taken over the district from Italian troops, but were unaware of the secret Italian payments to local commanders to stop attacks on their forces, and misjudged threat levels.