NATO and Afghanistan
NATO is leading a non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions. The Resolute Support Mission (RSM) was launched in January 2015, following the completion of the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in December 2014, when responsibility for security in Afghanistan was transferred to the Afghan national defence and security forces. Beyond supporting RSM, NATO Allies and partners are helping to sustain Afghan security forces and institutions financially, as part of a broader international commitment to Afghanistan. The NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership provides a framework for wider political dialogue and practical cooperation.
- NATO led the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from August 2003 to December 2014. ISAF’s mission was to enable the Afghan authorities and build the capacity of the Afghan national security forces to provide effective security, so as to ensure that Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for terrorists.
- ISAF is NATO’s longest and most challenging mission to date: at its height, the force was more than 130,000 strong with troops from 50 NATO and partner nations.
- ISAF also contributed to reconstruction and development in Afghanistan through 28 multinational Provincial Reconstruction Teams – led by individual ISAF nations – securing areas, outside of Kabul in the provinces, in which reconstruction work was conducted by national and international actors.
- The transition to Afghan lead for security started in 2011 and was completed in December 2014, when the ISAF operation ended and the Afghans assumed full responsibility for security of their country. By the end of 2014, PRTs had been phased out and their functions were handed over to Afghan authorities. In January 2015, NATO launched the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces and institutions. Currently, it numbers over 16,000 troops from 39 NATO Allies and partner countries.
- Allied leaders decided at the July 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw to sustain the presence of RSM beyond 2016.
- At the July 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, NATO welcomed two new troop-contributing nations, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which are currently finalising the details of their offers to contribute. The Allies and their operational partners committed to sustaining the mission until conditions indicate a change is appropriate; to extending financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces through 2024; and to making further progress on developing a political and practical partnership with Afghanistan.
- The Enduring Partnership is NATO’s political partnership with Afghanistan. It was set up in 2010 at the NATO Summit in Lisbon. At the 2016 Summit, Allies decided to strengthen and enhance the Partnership, within and alongside RSM, through political dialogue and practical cooperation. In the longer term, a traditional partnership with Afghanistan remains NATO’s goal.
- NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative represents the political leadership of the Alliance in Kabul, liaising with the government, civil society, representatives of the international community and neighbouring countries. The Representative has a leading role in advising the Afghan authorities on the Enduring Partnership.
More background information
Launched on 1 January 2015, the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) focuses primarily on training, advice and assistance activities at the security-related ministries, in the country’s institutions and among the senior ranks of the army and police. The Resolute Support Mission works closely with different elements of the Afghan army, police and air force.
The mission performs supporting functions in several areas. These include operational planning; budgetary development; force generation process; management and development of personnel; logistical sustainment; and civilian oversight to ensure the Afghan national defence and security forces and institutions act in accordance with the rule of law and good governance.
As of July 2018, RSM has over 16,000 personnel from 39 NATO Allies and partner countries, operating in one hub (Kabul/Bagram) and four spokes (Mazar-e Sharif in the north, Herat in the west, Kandahar in the south, and Laghman in the east).
The Afghan forces are making progress, performing with professionalism and bravery across the country, and continuing to deny the insurgents their strategic goals. They are developing their combat capabilities, notably their Special Operations Forces and the Air Force.
(More on Resolute Support)
At the Wales Summit in 2014, Allied leaders and their international partners renewed the pledge made earlier at the Chicago Summit to play their part in the financial sustainment of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) after 2014. The responsibility to contribute to the financing of this effort is one for the international community as a whole.
NATO has participated in that process, by supporting development of transparent, accountable and cost-effective international funding mechanisms and expenditure arrangements for all strands of the ANDSF.
As of 28 May 2018, total contributions made to the NATO-Afghan National Army (ANA) Trust Fund amount to more than USD 2.3 billion. The Afghan government itself is also expected to provide at least USD 500 million per year for the sustainment of the ANDSF. (More on the ANA Trust Fund )
The ANA Trust Fund is one of four funding streams used to channel financial support to Afghanistan’s security forces and institutions. The other three are the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), administered by the United Nations Development Programme; the United States Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF); and the Afghan government’s commitment to providing USD 500 million each year, while attempting to increase this amount annually, until they can financially sustain their own forces. LOTFA is used to pay the salaries of police and justice personnel and to build the capacity of the ministry of interior. The ASFF is subject to a US-Afghan bilateral agreement and pays for equipping and running Afghanistan’s security forces.
In December 2015, NATO Allies and partners launched further work with the wider international community to ensure that the ANDSF could be financially sustained through 2020. Heads of state and government made this commitment at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016. Allies and their operational partners agreed to extend financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces through 2024.
NATO and Afghanistan signed a Declaration on Enduring Partnership at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon. The document provides a framework for long-term political consultations and practical cooperation in areas of specific interest for Afghanistan where NATO can share expertise.
The initial set of Enduring Partnership activities, agreed by foreign ministers in April 2011, brings together a number of previously separate initiatives. The Enduring Partnership will contribute to NATO’s evolving mission and the sustained development of Afghan institutions.
In May 2015, NATO foreign ministers approved guidelines and principles for the enhancement of the Enduring Partnership. These include a continued presence of civilian and military personnel on the ground after the current Resolute Support Mission. In the longer term, the Enduring Partnership is also intended as a bridge towards a more traditional partnership between NATO and Afghanistan.
Cooperation within this framework includes:
- capacity-building efforts, such as NATO’s Building Integrity (BI) programme, which is helping to provide Afghanistan with practical tools to strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability and reduce the risk of corruption in defence and security sectors;
- professional military education programmes, such as the Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP);
- training in civil emergency planning and disaster preparedness;
- public diplomacy efforts to promote a better understanding of NATO and its role in Afghanistan.
Deployed in 2001 – initially under the lead of individual NATO Allies on a six-month rotational basis – ISAF was tasked, on the request of the Afghan government and under a United Nations (UN) mandate, to assist the Afghan government in maintaining security, originally in and around Kabul exclusively. NATO agreed to take command of the force in August 2003 and the UN Security Council subsequently mandated the gradual expansion of ISAF’s operations to cover the whole country.
ISAF was one of the largest coalitions in history. It is NATO’s longest and most challenging mission to date. At its height, the force was more than 130,000 strong with troops from 50 NATO and partner nations.
As part of the international community’s overall effort, ISAF worked to create the conditions whereby the Afghan government would be able to exercise its authority throughout the country.
Developing professional, capable and self-sustaining Afghan National Security Forces was at the centre of ISAF’s efforts and the core mission of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A). This work was carried out in close cooperation with the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) and the Afghan Ministry of Defence. The NTM-A, which was set up in 2009, focused on training initial recruits and building the institutional training capability of the Afghan security forces, while the ISAF Joint Command was responsible for developing fielded units through advice and assistance.
These combined efforts helped build up the Afghan security forces from scratch to approximately 352,000 soldiers and police officers. Since its creation in 2002, the Afghan National Army (ANA) incrementally progressed from an infantry-centric force to an army, with both fighting elements and enabling capabilities – such as military police, intelligence, route clearance, combat support, medical, aviation and logistics. The role of the Afghan National Police (ANP) gradually shifted from countering the insurgency to a more civilian policing role, by further developing capabilities ranging from criminal investigations to traffic control. The Afghan Air Force steadily increased its personnel including civilians as well as military aircrew and maintenance and support personnel, and its fleet of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.
A gradual process of transition to full Afghan security responsibility – known as “Inteqal” in Dari and Pashtu – was launched in 2011. This process was completed on schedule in December 2014, when ISAF’s mission ended and the Afghan forces assumed full security responsibility for their country.
ISAF helped create a secure environment for improving governance and socio-economic development, which are important conditions for sustainable stability. Afghanistan made the largest percentage gain of any country in basic health and development indicators over the decade of ISAF’s mission. Maternal mortality went down and life expectancy rose. A vibrant media scene sprang up. Millions of people have exercised their right to vote in five election cycles since 2004, including the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections, which resulted in the establishment of a National Unity Government.
(More on ISAF’s mission)
Addressing Afghanistan’s challenges requires a comprehensive approach, involving civilian and military actors, aimed not only at providing security but also at promoting good governance, the rule of law and long-term development. The Alliance acts in a supporting role to the Afghan government and works in close coordination with other international partners, including the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the World Bank, the European Union and the development community.
From the start of NATO’s engagement in international efforts to help secure Afghanistan’s future, the Alliance has also worked closely with many non-member countries. ISAF troop contributors included partners from as far afield as Australia and Latin America, representing more than a quarter of UN member countries, underlining the broad international support for ISAF’s mission. Australia, Georgia and Jordan were among the top non-NATO troop-contributing nations to ISAF.
Partner support continues for the new Resolute Support Mission.
SEPTEMBER 2001 – JULY 2003
9/11 AND THE FALL OF THE TALIBAN: THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY GETS ENGAGED
11 September 2001: A series of four coordinated terrorist attacks are launched on several targets in the United States, killing almost 3,000 people.
12 September 2001: NATO Allies and partner countries condemn the attacks, offering their support to the United States. The Allies decide to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty – the Alliance's collective defence clause – for the first time in NATO's history, if it is determined that the attack was directed from abroad against the United States.
2 October 2001: The North Atlantic Council is briefed by a high-level US official on results of investigations into the 9/11 attacks and determines that the attacks are regarded as an action covered by Article 5.
7 October 2001: Following the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama Bin Laden and close down terrorist training camps, the United States launches airstrikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan with the support of allies. Ground forces are deployed two weeks later. This marks the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, which is supported by a coalition of allies.
13 November 2001: Taliban forces abandon Kabul, which is taken over by forces of the Northern Alliance -- a military coalition of ethnic groups opposed to the rule of the Taliban.
14 November 2001: UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1378 calls for a central role for the UN in establishing a transitional administration and invites member states to send peacekeepers to Afghanistan.
5 December 2001: At a UN-sponsored conference in Bonn, delegates of Afghan factions appoint Hamid Karzai as head of an interim government. They also sign the Bonn Agreement, which provides for an international peacekeeping force to maintain security in Afghanistan.
20 December 2001: UNSCR 1386 authorises the deployment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in and around Kabul to help stabilise Afghanistan and create the conditions for self-sustaining peace.
22 December 2001: At a ceremony in Kabul, Hamid Karzai is sworn in as head of the interim government of Afghanistan.
January 2002: The first contingent of ISAF peacekeepers arrive in Afghanistan, deployed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter (Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression). The United Kingdom takes on the first six-month rotation of the command of ISAF; 18 other countries deploy forces and assets.
28 March 2002: The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is established at the request of the interim government of Afghanistan to assist it and the people of Afghanistan in laying the foundations for sustainable peace and development in the country.
June 2002: The Loya Jirga, an assembly of Afghan tribal leaders, elects Hamid Karzai as interim head of state to serve until elections in 2004.
20 June 2002: Turkey takes on the second rotation of the command of ISAF, on the basis of UNSCR 1413.
November 2002: The US military starts setting up Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan – first in Gardez, then Bamiyan, Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Herat – to coordinate redevelopment with UN agencies and non-governmental organisations. Some of these PRTs are later taken over by NATO member and partner countries.
21-22 November 2002: The Prague Summit paves the way for NATO to go "out-of-area".
10 February 2013: Germany and the Netherlands jointly take on the third rotation of the command of ISAF, on the basis of UNSCR 1444.
AUGUST 2003 – SPRING 2006
NATO TAKES THE LEAD OF ISAF AND EXPANDS NORTH AND WEST
August 2003: NATO takes the lead of the ISAF operation under the Command of Lieutenant General Goetz Gliemeroth, Germany.
31 December 2003: NATO-led ISAF initiates the expansion of ISAF to the north by taking over command of the German-led PRT in Kunduz.
4 January 2004: After three weeks of debate, the Loya Jirga approves a new constitution.
January 2004: Ambassador Hikmet Çetin, Turkey, takes up his post as the first NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
February 2004: Lieutenant General Rick Hillier, Canada, takes command of ISAF.
31 March-1 April 2004: Berlin donors' conference on Afghanistan.
28 June 2004: At the Istanbul Summit, NATO announces that it would establish four other PRTs in the north of the country: in Mazar-e-Sharif, Meymanah, Feyzabad and Baghlan.
May-September 2004: ISAF expands to the west, first taking command of PRTs in the provinces of Herat and Farah and a Forward Support Base (a logistics base) in Herat, followed by PRTs in Chaghcharan, the capital of Ghor Province, and one in Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis Province. NATO-led ISAF is now providing security assistance in 50 per cent of Afghanistan's territory.
August 2004: General Jean-Louis Py, France, takes command of ISAF.
1 October 2004: NATO-led ISAF's expansion into Afghanistan's nine northern provinces is completed.
9 October 2004: Hamid Karzai wins the presidential elections with 50 per cent of the vote.
29 October 2004: In a video message, Osama Bin Laden takes responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and threatens the West with further attacks.
February 2005: General Ethem Erdagi, Turkey, takes command of ISAF.
August 2005: General Mauro del Vecchio, Italy, takes command of ISAF.
September 2005: NATO temporarily deploys 2,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to support the provincial and parliamentary elections.
18 September 2005: Legislative elections are held in Afghanistan. In the lower house of parliament, 68 out of 249 seats are reserved for female members, as are 23 out of 102 seats in the upper house.
31 January 2006: At a conference in London, the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year plan of peacebuilding, is launched.
February 2006: ISAF troops adopt more robust rules of engagement.
May 2006: General David Richards, United Kingdom, takes command of ISAF.
8 June 2006: Meeting in Brussels, defence ministers from 37 NATO and partner countries that are contributing to ISAF confirm they are ready to expand ISAF's operation to the south of Afghanistan. It is the first-ever meeting of ministers in ISAF format; after that, such meetings become a regular event.
JULY 2006 – AUGUST 2009
FROM PEACE-SUPPORT TO COMBAT: ISAF EXPANDS SOUTH AND EAST
31 July 2006: NATO-led ISAF assumes command of the southern region of Afghanistan from US-led coalition forces, expanding its area of operations to cover an additional six provinces – Daikundi, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul – and taking on command of four additional PRTs. Expanded ISAF now leads a total of 13 PRTs in the north, west and south, covering some three-quarters of Afghanistan's territory.
24 August 2006: Ambassador Daan Everts, The Netherlands, is appointed to the position of NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
5 October 2006: ISAF implements the final stage of its expansion, by taking on command of the international military forces in eastern Afghanistan from the US-led coalition. In addition, ISAF starts to deploy training and mentoring teams to Afghan National Army units at various levels of command.
28-29 November 2006: At the Riga Summit, NATO leaders agree to remove some of the national caveats and restrictions on how, when and where their forces can be used.
February 2007: General Dan K. McNeill, United States, takes command of ISAF.
3 April 2008: At the Bucharest Summit, ISAF troop-contributing nations set out a strategic vision for Afghanistan guided by four principles: a firm and shared long-term commitment; support for enhanced Afghan leadership and responsibility; a comprehensive approach by the international community, bringing together civilian and military efforts; and increased cooperation and engagement with Afghanistan's neighbours, especially Pakistan.
May 2008: Ambassador Fernando Gentilini, Italy, takes up the post of NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
12 June 2008: A donors' conference for Afghanistan in Paris raises USD 20 billion in commitments, but diplomats harshly criticise the Afghan government's performance in fighting corruption, tackling the drug trade and promoting reconstruction.
June 2008: General David D. McKiernan, United States, takes over as Commander of ISAF.
August 2008: Lead security responsibility for Kabul city is transferred to Afghan forces.
December 2008: ISAF Commander General David D. McKiernan issues guidelines ordering (ISAF or US) soldiers to use force that is proportional to the provocation and that minimises the risk of civilian casualties.
17 February 2009: New US President Barack Obama announces an additional 17,000 troops to be deployed to Afghanistan during the spring and summer to counter a resurgent Taliban and stem the flow of foreign fighters into the south of Afghanistan.
27 March 2009: President Obama announces a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also decides to deploy 4,000 troops to Afghanistan as trainers for the Afghan security forces.
3-4 April 2009: At the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit, Allied leaders agree to send an additional 5,000 troops to train the Afghan security forces and provide security for the presidential elections in August.
May 2009: UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Kai Eide expresses serious concern over reports of as many as 100 civilians having been killed by airstrikes against Taliban fighters in the western province of Farah on 4 May. President Karzai demands the cessation of airstrikes.
June 2009: Lt Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, United States, takes command of NATO-led ISAF and of US forces in Afghanistan. This signals the adoption of a counter-insurgency strategy.
June 2009: Lt Gen McChrystal announces restrictions on the use of airstrikes in an effort to reduce civilian deaths.
20 August 2009: Presidential elections take place in Afghanistan but they are marred by widespread Taliban attacks, and lengthy vote-counting and fraud investigations leave them unresolved for a couple of months.
SEPTEMBER 2009 – FEBRUARY 2011
COUNTERING THE INSURGENCY: MORE BOOTS ON THE GROUND
20 September 2009: Lt Gen McChrystal's report to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, calling for more troops in Afghanistan, is made public.
2 November 2009: Hamid Karzai is declared President of Afghanistan for another five-year term following the cancellation of a second-round run-off with rival Abdullah Abdullah, who had announced his withdrawal.
19 November 2009: President Karzai expresses his ambition to see the Afghan security forces take the lead for security across Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
21 November 2009: Following decisions taken at the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit in April 2009, the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan is formally activated. Its aim is to bring together efforts to train the Afghan forces.
December 2009: Following a three-month review of the military campaign, President Obama decides on a troop surge involving the deployment of a further 30,000 troops, while also promising to start drawing down US troops by summer 2011. NATO foreign ministers announce the deployment of a further 7,000 soldiers.
28 January 2010: At an international conference in London, high-level representatives from over 70 countries discuss plans to gradually hand over the lead for security operations to the Afghan security forces.
28 January 2010: Ambassador Mark Sedwill, United Kingdom, assumes the position of NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
23 June 2010: ISAF Commander Lt Gen McChrystal is dismissed following a controversial article in Rolling Stone magazine in which he is quoted as being critical of the US Administration. He is replaced by Gen David H. Petraeus, United States, who maintains the counter-insurgency strategy.
20 July 2010: The Joint Afghan-NATO Inteqal Board is established as the mechanism to assess the readiness of districts and provinces to transition to Afghan lead for security.
20 July 2010: At a conference in Kabul, hosted by the Afghan government and co-chaired by the United Nations, the government makes a renewed commitment to the Afghan people, presenting an Afghan-led plan for improving development, governance and security.
September 2010: Afghan parliamentary elections take place, overshadowed by violence, fraud and delays in announcing the results.
19-20 November 2010: At the Lisbon Summit, NATO leaders agree with the Afghan government to hand over full responsibility for security in Afghanistan from ISAF to Afghan forces by end 2014. The gradual transition to Afghan security lead is set to be launched in 2011, starting in areas that are relatively stable. NATO and Afghanistan also sign a declaration on Enduring Partnership, providing a framework for long-term political and practical support, designed to continue after the ISAF mission.
MARCH 2011 – DECEMBER 2014
TRANSITION TO AFGHAN LEAD FOR SECURITY
22 March 2011: President Karzai announces the first set of Afghan provinces and districts to start transitioning towards Afghan lead for security.
April 2011: Ambassador Simon Gass, United Kingdom, takes up the post of NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
1 May 2011: Osama Bin Laden is killed by US Special Operations Forces in Pakistan.
22 June 2011: President Obama announces plans to withdraw 10,000 troops by end of year and the remaining 20,000 of the "surge" troops by summer 2012.
July 2011: General John R. Allen, United States, takes command of ISAF.
26 November 2011: Pakistani officials claim that NATO aircraft killed at least 25 soldiers in strikes against two military posts at the northwestern border with Afghanistan. NATO launches an investigation which later finds that poor coordination and mistakes made by both the NATO and Pakistani forces caused the incident.
27 November 2011: Announcement of the second set of Afghan provinces, districts and cities to transition to Afghan security lead.
5 December 2011: An international conference takes place in Bonn, to discuss cooperation with Afghanistan beyond the withdrawal of ISAF at the end of 2014. The Afghan president commits to strengthening the fight against corruption in exchange for continued international development aid. Pakistan boycotts the conference because of deaths caused by NATO airstrikes in November.
25 February 2012: A gunman shoots dead two senior US military officers in the Afghan interior ministry. Taliban claim responsibility. Gen John Allen, the commander of NATO and US forces, temporarily recalls all NATO personnel from Afghan ministries for force protection reasons.
1 April 2012: The Regional Police Training Centre in Mazar-e Sharif is handed over to the Afghans. It later becomes a training site for the Afghan National Civil Order Police.
13 May 2012: President Karzai announces the third set of areas to enter the transition process, covering over 75 per cent of the Afghan population.
21 May 2012: At the Chicago Summit, leaders from NATO's 28 nations and the 22 partners in the ISAF coalition gave Afghanistan a clear, long-term commitment to continue supporting the Afghan security forces with training, advice and assistance after the NATO-led ISAF mission is completed in 2014. Over USD 4 billion is pledged to sustain the Afghan forces.
8 July 2012: At the Tokyo donors' conference on Afghanistan, the international community pledges USD 16 billion in development aid through 2015 beyond the withdrawal of ISAF. But pressure is put on the government to hold inclusive, transparent and credible elections; to fight corruption and improve good governance; to uphold the constitution, especially human rights; and to enforce the rule of law.
16 July 2012: The Afghan Army Special Operations Command is stood up.
August 2012: English teaching at the Kabul Military Training Center is completely in the hands of Afghan instructors.
October 2012: Ambassador Maurits R. Jochems, The Netherlands, takes up the position of NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
31 December 2012: Announcement of the fourth group of Afghan provinces, cities and districts to enter the transition process. With this decision, 23 provinces out of 34 have fully entered transition and 87 per cent of the population lives in areas where Afghan forces are in the lead for security.
1 February 2013: The Afghan Ground Forces Command is established to oversee all operations in Afghanistan.
February 2013: General Joseph F. Dunford, United States, takes command of ISAF.
1 April 2013: The Afghan National Defence University is set up to train the future officers of the Afghan National Army.
18 June 2013: President Karzai announces the launch of the fifth and final tranche of transition. Once fully implemented, this brings the 11 remaining provinces into transition and puts Afghan forces in the lead for security across the whole country.
24 November 2013: The Loya Jirga votes in favour of a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, calling on President Hamid Karzai to sign the deal immediately. The agreement governs the presence of US troops in Afghanistan after 2014 and is needed to enable thousands of US soldiers to stay in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF.
5 April 2014: Millions of men and women turn out i