Based in Kabul, the ISAF Headquarters serves as the operational command for the NATO-led mission. It interacts with the Afghan government, governmental and non governmental organisations present in the country to assist with reconstruction, and supports the work of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Though ISAF Headquarters are located in Kabul, they are distinct from the Headquarters for the Regional Command Capital (RCC), also located in the Afghan capital.
At the Headquarters level, there are 42 contributing nations that contribute more than 2200 soldiers to make up the headquarters and its support personnel.
Since NATO assumed command and control of the ISAF mission on 11 August 2003, the ISAF Headquarters structure has evolved from one built around the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters model to a composite headquarters. As directed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), ISAF Headquarters is now formed from staff drawn from NATO Standing HQs and individuals provided by both NATO nations and those other nations that contribute to the mission. The transition took place with the ISAF X rotation on 4 February 2007.
The shape and size of the Headquarters has continued to evolve as the mission progresses, the size of each nation’s contribution to the Headquarters changing over time. The HQ's manning requirements are met as part of the ISAF Mission Combined Joint Statement of Requirement process.
Individuals move in and out of the Headquarters on a rolling basis, rather than in large groups as commanders change, as has previously been the case. This contributes to enhance continuity.