Italian prime minister pledges long-term commitment to Afghanistan

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi echoed recent pledges by French and Australian leaders, as the Afghan presidential palace said he emphasized his county's long-term commitment to Afghanistan in a meeting Sunday with President Hamid Karzai. Italy has about 2,400 troops in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the country, mostly in the western province of Herat, where there is little violence. Italy has been criticized for not letting its troops be deployed in more violent areas in the south and east. Prodi's visit follows those by the leaders of France and Australia, who met with Karzai on Saturday. Each leader pledged that his country was committed to Afghanistan for the long term _ promises that came as the governments of Canada and the Netherlands debate how long their troops will stay in the country.