|Updated: 09-Jan-2006||NATO Update|
NATO to head South in Afghanistan
Meeting at NATO HQ on 8 December, NATO Foreign Ministers endorsed a plan that paves the way for an expanded NATO role in Afghanistan.
The revised operational plan for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) provides strategic guidance for increased NATO support to the Afghan Government in extending its authority and influence across the country.
Larger NATO footprint
The next stage of this plan will be the expansion of ISAF to the South in 2006, also known as Stage 3, to cover an additional six provinces, and the establishment of at least four new Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
At present, ISAF has about 9,000 troops providing security assistance in 50% of Afghanistan’s territory, with nine Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the North and West of the country.
As part of the expansion to the South, NATO will be deploying up to an additional 6,000 personnel to Afghanistan, potentially bringing the total number up to 15,000.
“On the basis of this operational plan which ministers endorsed today, next year, NATO then will be operating in three-quarters of the territory of Afghanistan,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters at a press conference.
The Secretary General stressed that NATO cannot work in a void, and that “other international actors should stay equally committed”.
At the meeting Ministers also discussed strategic transatlantic political issues, including the Balkans and the Kosovo status talks, the broader Middle East, and NATO’s cooperation with other international organisations.