Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan

  • Last updated: 15 Apr. 2021 16:42

The NATO-led mission Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan was launched on 1 January 2015, following the completion of the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Its aim was to provide further training, advice and assistance for the Afghan security forces and institutions. In April 2021, the Allies decided to start the withdrawal of RSM forces by 1 May 2021. The drawdown of all US and RSM forces should be completed within a few months. NATO Allies and partners will continue to support the ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

As of August 2020, the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) had around 10,000 personnel from 36 NATO member states and partner countries deployed in Afghanistan.

RSM operated with one central hub (in Kabul/Bagram) and four spokes in Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Laghman. It focused 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. It worked closely with different elements of the Afghan army, police and air force.

Key functions included:

  • Supporting planning, programming and budgeting;
  • Assuring transparency, accountability and oversight;
  • Supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance;
  • Supporting the establishment and sustainment of such processes as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel.

Key decisions on RSM

The decision to launch a follow-on, NATO-led non-combat mission to continue supporting the development of the Afghan security forces after the end of ISAF’s mission in December 2014 was jointly agreed between Allies and partners with the Afghan government at the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012. This commitment was reaffirmed at the Wales Summit in 2014.

The legal framework for RSM is provided by a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was signed in Kabul on 30 September 2014 by the Afghan President and NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, and later ratified by the Afghan Parliament on 27 November 2014. The SOFA defines the terms and conditions under which NATO forces will be deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support, as well as the activities that they are set to carry out under this agreement.

The agreement between NATO and Afghanistan on the establishment of the new mission was welcomed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2189. Unanimously adopted on 12 December 2014, it underscores the importance of continued international support for the stability of Afghanistan.

In December 2015, at the foreign ministers’ meeting of NATO Allies and their RSM partners, it was agreed to sustain the RSM presence, including in the regions of Afghanistan, during 2016. Six months later, in May 2016, they agreed to sustain the RSM presence beyond 2016 – a decision that was confirmed by Allied leaders at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July.

At a meeting of defence ministers in November 2017, RSM troop-contributing nations confirmed that the number of troops deployed would increase from around 13,000 to around 16,000 troops.

Intra -Afghan peace negotiations were launched at a ceremony in Doha on 12 September 2020. NATO Allies urge the Afghan government and the Taliban to fulfill their commitments to working towards a comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, and builds on the progress of the last two decades to safeguard human rights, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that Afghanistan never again serves as a haven for terrorists. Conditions-based adjustments were subsequently made to the Resolute Support Mission to support the peace efforts. 

On 14 April 2021, recognising that there is no military solution to the challenges Afghanistan faces, the Allies decided to start the withdrawal of RSM forces by 1 May 2021.  The drawdown of all US and RSM forces will be orderly, coordinated and deliberate, and is due to be completed within a few months.  Any Taliban attacks on Allied troops during this withdrawal will be met with a forceful response.

Beyond the training, advice and assistance mission, Allies and partner countries remain committed to the broader international community’s support for the long-term financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces through 2024.