International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - Afghanistan

NATO's main role in Afghanistan is to assist the Afghan Government in exercising and extending its authority and influence across the country, paving the way for reconstruction and effective governance. It does this predominately through its UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF has been deployed since 2001 under the authority of the UN Security Council (UNSC) which authorised the establishment of the force to assist the Afghan government "in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas, so that the Afghan Interim Authority as well as the personnel of the United Nations can operate in a secure environment."

ISAF's missions include:

  • Security
    • Conducting security and stability operations
    • Supporting the Afghan National Army
    • Supporting the Afghan National Police
    • Disarming illegally armed groups (DIAG)
    • Facilitating ammunition depots management
    • Providing post-operation assistance
  • Reconstruction and Development
    • Providing security to permit reconstruction
    • Humanitarian Assistance
  • Governance
  • Counter Narcotics
Twelve UN Security Council Resolutions relate to ISAF, namely: 1386, 1413, 1444, 1510, 1563, 1623, 1707, 1776, 1833, 1890, 1917 and 2011 (12 October 2011). A detailed Military Technical Agreement agreed between the ISAF Commander and the Afghan Transitional Authority in January 2002 provides additional guidance for ISAF operations. ISAF is an international, NATO-led, operation which has a peace-enforcement mandate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
ISAF was created in accordance with the Bonn Conference in December 2001. The concept of a UN-mandated international force to assist the newly established Afghan Transitional Authority was launched at this occasion to create a secure environment in and around Kabul and support the reconstruction of Afghanistan. These agreements paved the way for the creation of a three-way partnership between the Afghan Transitional Authority, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and ISAF. NATO took command of ISAF in Aug 2003 at the request of the UN and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Soon after, the UN gave ISAF a mandate to expand outside of Kabul. ISAF expanded its command in four phases, initially in the north in Dec 2003, to the west in Feb 2005, to the south in Dec 2005, then finally expanding into the east in Oct. 2006. In June 2010, NATO split the South Regional Command in half in a bid to improve security by focusing on smaller geographical areas and ensuring greater partnering with Afghan forces.

At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, NATO reaffirmed its long-term commitment to Afghanistan (Enduring Partnership) and announced the launch of Transition to Afghan lead in security which will start in July 2011, with the ambition expressed by President Karzai, to see the Afghan National Security Forces take the lead in conducting security operations across Afghanistan by the end of 2014.