Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan (2015-2021)

  • Last updated: 30 May. 2022 09:07

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 and the mission was terminated early September 2021.

Functions and organisation of RSM

Resolute Support was a NATO-led, non-combat mission. The mission was established at the invitation of the Afghan government and in accordance with United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2189 of 2014. Its purpose was to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in the long term. 

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 security 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 and evolution of 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 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. This commitment was reaffirmed at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales.

The legal framework for RSM was 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 defined the terms and conditions under which NATO forces were deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support, as well as the activities that they were set to carry out under this agreement.

The agreement between NATO and Afghanistan on the establishment of the new mission was welcomed by UN Security Council Resolution 2189. Unanimously adopted on 12 December 2014, it underscored 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. The following year, at a meeting of defence ministers in November 2017, RSM troop-contributing countries confirmed that the number of troops deployed would increase from around 13,000 to around 16,000 troops.

In February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement on the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.

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 mission was terminated early September 2021.