NATO Allies agree on key ISAF issues
Following two days of formal meetings and working sessions at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Allied Defence Ministers approved three separate initiatives; to enhance training for Afghan National Security Forces; to improve command and control structure for ISAF; and to deploy NATO AWACs to assist with air traffic control in Afghanistan.
Ministers were briefed on progress being made with respect to election support forces and the positive response by Nations and Partners to contribute the forces required for the Presidential and Provincial Council elections in August. The additional forces comprise approximately 8 battalions plus enablers, numbering around 10,000. The security plan being developed under the guidance of the Afghan Independent Electoral Commission, envisions the ANP and ANA providing the first two tiers of security, with ISAF providing third tier support. ISAF commanders are confident that they have sufficient forces to contribute effectively to a secure environment to enable free and fair elections throughout the country.
Ministers agreed that important progress has been made in the implementation of NATO’s security priorities for 2009 in Afghanistan. However, much more effort is needed in the training of the Afghan National Police, which Ministers noted as essential to ensure the long-term security for the Afghan people.
Developing the capacity of both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) remains fundamental to ISAF’s strategy for success. Ministers agreed to the establishment of a NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A), in line with the decisions by Heads of State and Government during the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit, last April. This decision will initiate a series of tasks to expand the role of NATO regarding the development of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
NTM-A is designed to capitalize on existing training structures and synergies within ISAF and the US led Combined Security Transition Command (CSTC-A), as well as other international training efforts. As such, the Commander of NTM-A and CSTC-A will be double-hatted. NTM-A will coordinate closely with the International Police Coordination Board to ensure unity of effort through enhanced coordination. In addition, Ministers agreed to expand the ANA Equipment Support Program to include donations for the ANP, who continue to lag behind the ANA in terms of development.
In recognition of the changing scope and scale of the responsibilities at ISAF HQ, Defence Ministers agreed in principle to the establishment of an intermediate 3 star ISAF Headquarters, responsible to Commander ISAF (COMISAF). This will allow COMISAF to focus on operational issues, such as training and development, and the coordination between the Afghans and the International Community in Afghanistan, leaving the intermediate command to take responsibility for operations.
Defence Ministers also decided to deploy NATO AWACs to assist with air traffic control in Afghanistan in recognition of the significant increase in both civilian and military aircraft over Afghanistan and the lack of a ground-based radar network to manage this. This interim plan allows for the immediate deployment of 3 or 4 aircraft who will carry out this task from the air.
The Supreme Allied Commander for Europe (SACEUR), General John Craddock, updated Ministers on ISAF’s enhanced counter-narcotics efforts, highlighting the significant progress made this year and outlining further methods for continued success in this effort. SACEUR stated that progress against the narco traffickers was significant, highlighting that 43 drug labs had been destroyed, 34 tons of opium, 7 tons of hashish and 58 tons of chemicals had been seized and a number of drug runners captured.