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iconPEACE OPERATION Updated February 3 2010

Section Contents:  Mission Mandates | UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) | Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)The Bonn Agreement | The Afghanistan Compact | Coordination ArrangementsSecurity Sector ReformComposition Of The Peace OperationInternational Security Assistance Force (ISAF) | Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) | United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)Afghan National Army (ANA) & Afghan National Police (ANP)


Mission Mandates
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)

The Initial UN Mandate

The ISAF mission was first established after the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban, in December 2001, as a result of the UN-facilitated talks in Bonn, Germany. The Bonn Agrement laid out a framework and timeline for political recovery and also set the basis for UNAMA and the ISAF mission. Its Annex 1 (International Security Force) states that ‘the participants request the assistance of the international community in helping the new Afghan authorities in the establishment and training of new Afghan security and armed forces.’ It also included a request for ‘the early deployment to Afghanistan of a United Nations mandated force.’

The Bonn Agreement was soon endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1386 (2001), which authorized ‘the establishment for 6 months of an International Security Assistance Force to assist the Afghan Interim Authority 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.’ Furthermore, the Security Council called ‘on Member States participating in ISAF to provide assistance to help the Afghan Interim Authority in the establishment and training of new Afghan security and armed forces.’ Resolution 1386 (2001) and shortly afterwards Resolution 1413 (2002) essentially authorized ISAF as a peace enforcement mission under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. ISAF was and is not a UN force but a coalition of states, with costs born by contributors. However, annual UN Security Council Resolutions have since renewed and endorsed the mission's mandate.

The Military Technical Agreement

The January 4, 2002 Military Technical Agreement (MTA) between ISAF and the Afghan government set the size of the mission at 5,000 to 6,000 troops and outlined such tasks as patrolling, assisting the interim administration in developing security structures, assisting reconstruction efforts, and arranging training for Afghan security forces. The MTA gave the commander of ISAF final decision in how to interpret the mandate, and also gave the ISAF commander complete freedom to do what is believed necessary to protect ISAF and its mission. This does not mention explicitly offensive operations, though the vague language of the MTA arguably allows ISAF to undertake offensive operations as it deems necessary.

Transition to NATO Command

After several rotations under different 'lead nations', in August 2003 the mission passed into NATO command, though it retained its UN mandate. This transition reduced the problem of finding lead nations, and by establishing a continuous NATO headquarters eliminated the problem of setting up new headquarters for each lead nation.

ISAF Expansion

Almost two years after the initial mandate, the Security Council expanded the ISAF mandate by adopting Resolution 1510 (2003), which allowed ISAF ‘to support the Afghan Transitional Authority and its successors in the maintenance of security in areas of Afghanistan outside of Kabul and its environs, so that the Afghan Authorities as well as the personnel of the United Nations and other international civilian personnel engaged, in particular, in reconstruction and humanitarian efforts, can operate in a secure environment, and to provide security assistance for the performance of other tasks in support of the Bonn Agreement.’ NATO signed a new Military Technical Agreement with the Government of Afghanistan on  December 9, 2003.

Despite this new legal basis for ISAF’s presence throughout the country, it took three years, until October 2006, to expand the mission to all parts of Afghanistan. The total number of ISAF troops passed the expected 15,000, as large numbers of American soldiers were reassigned as part of ISAF. The current size of the ISAF force as of January 25th 2010 is 84,150(For details on the size of national ISAF contingents, see Composition)

The Operational Plan

The December 2005 Operational Plan (Revised) stated NATO's end goal as being ‘a self-sustaining, moderate and democratic Afghan government able to exercise its sovereign authority, independently, throughout Afghanistan.’

ISAF defines its tasks as follows:

to support the Afghan government and nurture the people's consent to it,

to concentrate on activities that will assist the Afghan government to establish sustainable economic growth (such as securing mineral resources);

supporting the government in the development and implementation of its counter-narcotics campaign 

work to resolve conflict and reduce tension within Afghanistan by focusing on the defeat of the insurgency threat to the country;

support the training of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. 

With regard to combat operations, the Operational Plan states: "Security operations will be required to allow PRTs to perform their tasks. Such security operations will range from local force protection in a permissive environment to decisive, pro-active military ground and air manoeuvre thereby creating the environment for PRTs to flourish."

UN endorsement under Chapter VII of the UN Charter implies UN consent to the use of force. However, certain nations have national caveats that prevent them from participating in such actions.

The Operational Plan states further: “Counter-terrorism operations will not be conducted by ISAF forces, or under ISAF command.” However, NATO does engage insurgents offensively, and has encountered Al Qaeda operatives, which makes the distinction between OEF and ISAF mandates very nuanced.

Debate About Counter-Insurgency Approach

Greg Mills' article "10 counterinsurgency commandments from Afghanistan" provides insight into the strategic thinking of the ISAF forces. Mills emphasizes that efforts should be focused on the political and economic dimensions of the conflict, and that a military victory over the insurgency is highly unlikely. Especially between Britain and the US, disagreement has surfaced over tactics used in the counter-insurgency campaign, e.g. the use of air strikes, which Britain complains undermines its strategy of “winning hearts and minds.” However, Britain is under pressure to justify its approach after the Taliban have seeped back into the north of Helmand province, the heart of the poppy-growing region.

An increasing number of experts within NATO and elsewhere are arguing that a more nuanced approach to the counter-insurgency campaign is needed – reflecting multiple layers within the insurgency. For instance, it is assumed that more than half of the fighters are locals who believe they are defending their livelihoods, or are following guidance they receive from their mullahs and elders, reacting against corruption among local officials, or seeking redress for other local or personal grievances. It is therefore being argued that ISAF should adopt a more discriminating approach to the security situation in the south of Afghanistan and switch its focus from military means to a more effective police presence that would be more closely integrated with local communities. Some analysts go even further and recommend a shift from direct engagement of the enemy to heavy reliance on local forces and partners. There are indications that ISAF strategy is indeed changing along these lines, with the build-up of Afghan security forces becoming the centre of gravity for the mission’s efforts. (For more information on security sector reform, see Security Sector Reform)

On August 25th the ISAF commander General Stanley McChrystal released his new guidelines for counter insurgency. The key focus for the McChrystal’s guidelines is that “protecting the people is the mission.” He emphasized that it is the Afghan people who will decide who win this conflict and that ISAF was in a struggle to win their support. If they are to succeed, ISAF forces must be able to see life through the eyes of the Afghan people and understand their frustrations. Victory will not be won through killing insurgents but by providing security and helping Afghans become active participants in the success of their own community. Troops must realize that they were the Afghan’s guests and should conduct themselves accordingly. By partnering with the Afghans they would be able to improve governance and accountability.

Though ISAFs new counterinsurgency guidelines seems to heed many of the calls for creating partnerships there are still others who do not see this hearts and mind approach as helpful to the state building process. Looking at the history of South Asia some say that a hearts and minds campaign will not work in Afghanistan. Paul Staniland outlines two possible avenues. The first is state coercion, where the force of the state is brought down on militants to make them submit. He uses the examples of Sri Lanka’s bloody wars, Indian Punjab and Indian administered Kashmir. Mass military deployment is needed to imprint the state in the consciousness of the population. The second avenue is that is bargaining which is a mixture of accommodation and coercion. He cites Iraq as an example of this. He clearly goes against what he considers the popular counter insurgency discourse of mass legitimacy and providing governance.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs)

PRTs are joint military-civilian entities whose role is to help the Government of Afghanistan extend its authority in the provinces and facilitate the development of a secure environment to allow reconstruction and development activities to move forward. An additional function of the PRTs is to provide a visible international presence that deters terrorist and criminal activities, especially in remote areas. PRTs also contain aid and diplomatic representatives from the governments of the nation supporting the PRT.

Various mechanisms exist to coordinate the work of the PRTs with the Afghan government, foreign military, UN, and NGO representatives. The Afghan Ministry of Interior chairs a PRT Executive Steering Committee, which oversees the activities of the PRTs and is the main coordination focus for groups concerned with PRT activities. A PRT working group, which involves military, government, and NGO representatives, convenes weekly. Afghan Interior Ministry officials are also being integrated into some PRTs in an effort to improve coordination with the Afghan government.

Current UN Mandate for ISAF

The UN Security Council mandate for ISAF has been renewed annually for several years. In September 2008, ISAF's mandate was extended for a period of 12 months beyond 13 October 2008 (Resolution 1833). Reflecting concern about the recent increase in the number of civilian deaths, the Resolution acknowledges "the efforts by ISAF and other international forces to minimize the risk of civilian casualties and (calls) on them to take additional robust efforts in this regard." In total there are nine UN Security Council resolutions relating to ISAF: 1386, 1413, 1444, 1450, 1510, 1563, 1623, 1707, 1776 and 1833.

ISAF's Continuing Role

The Afghanistan Compact endorses a continuing role for ISAF and OEF through the end of 2010, in providing security support and assistance in security sector reform to the Afghan government, as well as strengthening and developing the national security forces. The agreement also specifies that such activities are to be undertaken in full respect of Afghan sovereignty and with the goal of strengthening dialogue and cooperation with its neighbours. On 6 September 2006 President Karzai and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer signed the “Declaration by NATO and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This declaration confirms NATO’s ‘long-term’ role in defence sector reform, security sector training, and defence institution-building. This document was soon followed by the Riga Summit Declaration of November 2006, in which NATO declared "We are committed to an enduring role to support the Afghan authorities, in cooperation with other international actors.  Contributing to peace and stability in Afghanistan is NATO’s key priority." 

Despite such ambitious statements, it is becoming increasingly apparent that NATO is struggling to maintain the cohesion of the alliance and ensure that the burden of providing security assistance to Afghanistan is shared equally among its members. Some allies express frustration with the refusal of others to share the dangerous combat roles being assumed almost exclusively by the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands. Some observers argue that the lack of political will among some members of the alliance to share a greater part of the burden reflects deeper divisions over anti-drug and reconstruction policies, rising civilian casualties and what some say is heavy-handed U.S. leadership. For details on this controversy, see Composition.

On January 16th 2009 UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged NATO states take on more of the burden in Afghanistan. US and UK forces have taken the brunt of the casualties in the escalating insurgency. 2009 saw the UK suffer 108 losses while the US saw 316 of its troops kills. Other NATO troops suffered a combined 95 fatalities. On December 1st US President Obama pledged to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to bolster the US and NATO efforts there. These troops will be deployed primarily in the Kandahar and Helmand provinces which are the most volatile. The European Union states have pledged 7000 troops in the wake of Obama’s pledge. However, despite the additional troops, Canada has begun plans to pull combat troops out of Afghanistan in 2011. A decision was reached by the country’s parliament in March 2008 to end the mission by July 2011. Despite the pull out Canada will continue to work in humanitarian, developmental and diplomatic projects in Afghanistan.

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

Annex II of the Bonn Agreement on "Role for the United Nations" specified that the Special Representative of the Secretary General has responsibility for all UN activities in Afghanistan as well as to "monitor and assist in the implementation" of all aspects of the Bonn agreement (Annex II). The UN was requested to 'advise" and "assist" the interim Afghan authorities and to attend meetings of the government bodies. The annex also specified that in the event of an impasse among members of the Interim government, the SRSG could "use his/her good offices with a view to facilitating a resolution to the impasse or a decision."

Subsequently, Security Council Resolution 1401 of 28 March 2002 established the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA incorporated and replaced the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan which had been operating since December 1993 but had withdrawn from the country during the US-led invasion. Resolution 1401 gave the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), at the time Lakhdar Brahimi, "full authority...over the planning and conduct of all United Nations activities in Afghanistan." Resolution 1401 also called for all reconstruction assistance to be provided through the Interim Government and its local agencies where possible, and for local authorities to contribute to the maintenance of security. This was consistent with Kofi Annan's recommendation of giving Afghans as big a role as possible in managing the reconstruction of the country, leaving only a 'light footprint' by the international community.

Follow-through on the Bonn Agreement

The political transition process outlined in the Bonn agreement was fully implemented by the end of 2005, only slightly behind schedule (see Follow-through on Bonn Agreement). By the end of 2005, Afghanistan had elected Hamid Karzai as President, and elected both upper and lower houses of an Afghanistan National Assembly.

Extension of both ISAF's and the UN's role in Afghanistan beyond the terms of the Bonn Agreement, is specified in the Afghanistan Compact, agreed in early February 2006 between Afghan government and political leaders and representatives of the UN and donor countries. It lays out clear targets to be reached by end 2010 in 3 key areas of 1) security, 2) governance and 3) social and economic development. The Afghanistan Compact was endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1659, February 15, 2006.

Progress on Political Stabilization in Afghanistan

Dec 5

Dec 6

Dec 22

March 28


Bonn Agreement reached, includes call for UN assistance in conflict recovery


UN Security Council Resolution 1154 endorses Bonn Agreement


Afghan Interim Administration established, Chairman Hamid Karzai + 29 members

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) established through UN Security Council Resolution 1401  following on Bonn Agreement

Emergency Loya Jirga to create a transitional government (1500 delegates from 400 jurisdictions). Created Transitional Administration to replaced Interim Government








Constitutional Loya Jirga to draft new constitution concluded, and new constitution signed.


Presidential elections held, Hamid Karzai wins against 17 other candidates


Elections held for the lower house (Wolesi Jirga) of the National Assemby

Elections held for the upper house (Meshrano Jirga) of the National Assembly

Afghan Compact signed

Date for "Afghanistan Compact" recovery targets to be reached

The UN's Continuing Role

The Afghanistan Compact endorses a "central and impartial coordinating role" for the United Nations in the partnership between the Afghan government and the international community. It establishes a "Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board" for the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, co-chaired by the Afghanistan government and the United Nations, whose goal is to ensure greater coherence and effectiveness of aid and regular public reporting. For more details see United Nations in Afghanistan.

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)

There is no direct UN mandate for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Nor has a "status of forces" bilateral agreement been reached with the new Afghan government since OEF military action overthrew the Taliban regime. 

The US, which leads the operation, justified its initial military action in the fall of 2001 by referring to the right to self-defence as defined in Art. 51 of the UN Charter and as affirmed in various UN Security Council resolutions as well as declarations by the UN General Assembly and NATO after the attacks of September 11. 

Though there has been no direct UN authorization of OEF, several relevant UN Security Council Resolutions on Afghanistan have explicitly acknowledged OEF, making it clear that the action is not 'illegal. Security Council Resolution 1368 (12 September 2001) called on all states "to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of the September 11 terrorist attacks and stresses that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable". Security Council Resolution 1373 (28 September 2001) reaffirmed the right of collective security and the right to self-defence enshrined in the UN Charter. Security Council Resolution 1662 (March 2006) which extended the mandate of UNAMA, directly mentions both OEF and ISAF as providing assistance to the Afghan government to address threats to security and stability.

The 2006 Afghanistan Compact, endorsed in Security Council Resolution 1659, acknowledges the role of OEF in providing strong support to the Afghan Government in establishing and sustaining security and stability in Afghanistan, subject to participating states’ national approval procedures.

The US-led coalition defines its mission as follows:

"Combined Forces Command Afghanistan conducts full spectrum operations throughout the combined joint operations area to defeat Al Qaeda and associated movements, establish an enduring Afghan security structure and reshape its posture for the Long War in order to set the conditions for long-term stability in Afghanistan."

 US-Afghan Agreements

Coalition forces operate with no bilateral agreement with the Afghan government. This provides them discretion to act according to US goals and interests. However the consent of the Karzai government to the continuation of the operation gives legal backing to the operation. President Karzai has called for coalition forces to focus more on the insurgents' supply lines and bases in Pakistan, indicating a difference in how the US and the Afghan government perceive the vital interests of Afghanistan. Karzai also demanded the US reduce unpopular actions, like house searches and bombings, within Afghanistan.

 On 23 May 2005 the US and Afghanistan issued a joint declaration of strategic partnership, which endorsed the continued stationing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This agreement entails regular high-level exchanges in the political, economic, and security fields. The agreement also calls for helping to organize Afghan security forces, continued anti-terrorism activities, strengthening Afghanistan's ties with NATO, and possibly assisting Afghanistan in the case of an external threat. The agreement does not specifically address the issue of permanent US bases in Afghanistan.

 According to analyst Barnett Rubin, this Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership, providing for “freedom of action” by U.S. forces must give way to a status of forces agreement between Afghanistan and the United States that affirms Afghan sovereignty, commits both sides to respect international humanitarian law, and limits threats to neighbouring states from U.S. bases.

There has been an aversion on behalf of the US government to sign a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with Afghanistan. An official from the Bush Administration was quoted as saying that the Afghan government was not the most streamlined or efficient system with too many players on that side. However, while the UN mandate serves as a SOFA for NATO, the Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership is seen by some as a mere diplomatic note signed by the Bush Administration and a non-elected government at the time. What adds to the confusion is that the US forces are not one homogenous force. Parts of the US forces operate under NATO’s ISAF banner while the rest are part of OEF.  While the multitude of command structures frustrate many, the Afghan government see it as a way of deflecting responsibility for actions leading to civilian casualties.

The Bonn Agreement

On 27 November 2001, Lakdar Brahimi convened the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan's political future. The composition of the groups attending reflected the military situation on the ground. Strong representation came from the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban forces like Rashid Dostum's Junbish, while no Taliban representatives attended.  Deputy Special Representative for the Secretary General Chris Alexander, in a 2006 interview with NATO, has stated two reasons for not including the Taliban in the Bonn process: the Taliban had falled from power, and having been routed its leadership was largely inaccessible at the time.  Critiques of the Bonn Process have called it a peace of the victors, and accused it of being a 'flawed' peace.  The inclusiveness of the process was undermined by US financial support to warlords, whom they contracted to assist them in their hunt for Al Qaeda. Excluding the Taliban and supporting a role for many of the warlords responsible for the civil war in the 1990s is considered by some to be a principle cause of the ongoing insurgency.

 Pressure from the Six plus Two Group was instrumental in getting Afghan groups to attend the conference, though according to Afghanistan specialist Barnett Rubin, the Bonn Conference was hastily organized, and the UN was pressured into accepting it by the US. Nonetheless, the "Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government Institutions," commonly referred to as the Bonn Agreement, was reached on 5 December 2001. The Interim Administration was established on 22 December 2001, with Hamid Karzai being sworn in as Chairman. The conference also gave prominent positions to Northern Alliance leaders: Younis Qanooni became Minister of the Interior, Abdullah Abdullah became Foreign Minister, and Muhammed Qassem Fahim became the Vice-president in the new Afghan Interim Administration. There was a distinct effort during the Bonn Conference to make the proceedings as much of an Afghan effort as possible, and to give the Interim Administration and later the Transitional Government de jure decision-making power.

The Bonn Agreement was endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 1154. While the Bonn Agreement set the course for Afghanistan's post-war recovery, it was not a peace agreement. Rather, it was an agreement dependent on the Coalition victory, and the Taliban did not attend the conference. The Taliban at the time was factionalized, with moderate and extremist groupings. Abdur Rehman Zahid, the Taliban's former deputy Foreign Minister in 2001, said "The Taliban support the Bonn process and the Loya Jirga." However, the Taliban and it's leader, Mullah Omar, have not been part of any substantial peace efforts.

The Bonn Agreement laid out a timetable for Afghanistan's political development. It called first for the creation of a transitional government, to be created through a loya jirga, a traditional Afghan meeting process, within six months. Following that, it called for a constitutional loya jirga to be held within 18 months of the Bonn Agreement. Kofi Annan envisioned the Transitional Authority leading Afghanistan until free elections were held to choose a President and a National Assembly. These were set to occur within two years of the Emergency Loya Jirga. The first step towards this was accomplished with the creation of the Special Independent Commission for the Convening of the Emergency Loya Jirga. The Bonn Agreement also called for the creation of a civil service and an independent Human Rights Commission, the formation of an international security force, and it promised to ensure the participation of women in the government.

Follow-through on the Bonn Agreement

The emergency loya jirga was convened between June 12 and 19, 2002, with participation from 1,500 delegates from 400 jurisdictions. Hamid Karzai was elected by secret ballot to serve as president of the Transitional Administration, which replaced the Interim Government. During the Transitional Administration, the inexperienced Cabinet served as both the executive and legislative bodies of government.

Bonn also called for the assistance of the United Nations in several areas of the conflict recovery process. Subsequently, Security Council Resolution 1401 of 28 March 2002 established the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA incorporated and replaced the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan which had been operating since December 1993 but had withdrawn from the country during the US-led invasion. Resolution 1401 gave the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), at the time Lakdar Brahimi, "full authority...over the planning and conduct of all United Nations activities in Afghanistan." Resolution 1401 also called for all reconstruction assistance to be provided through the Interim Government and its local agencies where possible, and for local authorities to contribute to the maintenance of security. This is consistent with Kofi Annan's recommendation of giving Afghans as big a role as possible in managing the reconstruction of the country, leaving only a 'light footprint' by the international community.

Progress on the Bonn Agreement proceeded. In January 2004 the Constitutional Loya Jirga was concluded, and a new constitution was signed. Although slightly behind schedule, Presidential elections were held in October 2004, with Hamid Karzai being announced the winner on 9 October. Seventeen other candidates had run against Karzai in the election. Voter turn-out was high in this election, with over 8 million Afghans voting, forty-one percent of whom were women. While not without minor problems, the election was regarded as legitimate by international observers. The bicameral National Assembly elections on 18 September 2005 and the selection of representatives for the Upper House (Meshrano Jirga) in December of that year completed the process laid out in the Bonn Agreement. Over six million voters, approximately 50% of those registered, cast their votes in this election. While considered successful, ballots from 703 polling stations, or 2.5% of the total, were discarded because of fraud. 27% of all seats in the Lower House (Wolesi Jirga) went to women, and several of these women obtained their seat without use of quotas for women. Members for an Upper House were selected from representatives elected for provincial councils in the 18 September election. Secretary General Kofi Annan claimed that Afghanistan had gained a fully elected government which was representative of Afghanistan's ethnic and political diversity.


The Afghanistan Compact

From 31 January until 6 February 2006 representatives and leaders from Afghanistan and the international community met in London, England, to outline future goals and commitments for Afghanistan. Fifty-one countries attended the London conference. The result was the Afghanistan Compact.

With the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS), formerly IANDS (see details here) providing the backdrop, the Afghanistan Compact addressed three focus areas: security, governance, and social and economic development. ISAF and OEF are expected to remain in Afghanistan and continue coordinated activities with the Afghan government and military through 2010. The Afghan National Army was expected to reach a total strength of 70,000 soldiers by 2010, but recent US announcements have called for increasing that number to 80,000 by 2008. Police and counter-narcotics operations are also expected to expand.  Moreover, the disarmament of "illegal armed groups," or militias that are not registered with the government, is targeted to be achieved by the end of 2007.

The Afghanistan Compact encourages donors to channel aid through the Afghan government, and within the framework of the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy. The Afghan government is given responsibility for setting its own aid priorities and for establishing reliable methods of accountability. Increasingly, Afghan partner organizations and the Afghan private sector are to be used when channeling aid without going through the central government. The Afghanistan Compact was endorsed by the Security Council in Resolution 1659.

Coordination Arrangements

This section tracks command structure, reporting structure and formal and informal coordination arrangements for military and civilian elements, lead nation if any and rationale for this, location of ultimate decision making authority - both bureaucratic and political.

Chains of Command

The peace operation in Afghanistan is not a unified operation with a clear chain of command, but rather three separate missions striving for the same goal of stabilization. Each of the three major international actors in Afghanistan has a separate mandate (See: Mandates). ISAF focuses on security, stabilization and extending the authority of the Afghan government, though in 2006 offensive operations against anti-government forces became more common in southern Afghanistan. OEF, the ongoing US-led military operation, focuses on counter-terrorism and training Afghan military forces, and the U.N. operates a political assistance mission, UNAMA. Each organization maintains liaisons with the others, but each has a separate chain of command and there is no unified command structure. OEF and ISAF have announced 'clear command arrangements,' but the details of these arrangements are not clear.  Major General Benjamin Freakley, the US commander of OEF's CJTF-82, also has a command role in ISAF, an arrangement aimed at improving coordination between the two missions. 

At a meeting at NATO headquarters on 2 November 2006 the lead donors discussed unifying their strategy for the first time.  NATO, the UN, the World Bank, and the European Union were all participants.  NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer restated NATO's position that there is no military solution to the conflict and that greater development needs to occur. 

The command structures within the 3 separate missions are as follows:


ISAF in theory operates under a unified command within Afghanistan. However, individual nations often place certain caveats on their contingents, such as forbidding them to undertake offensive operations against insurgents.



NOTE: This chart reflects changes to the structure of OEF in January/February 2007.  The Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan was removed and replaced with CJTF-76, which was subsequently renamed CJTF-82. 


Prior to NATO's takeover of eastern Afghanistan, there was a lot of overlap between ISAF's and OEF's responsibilities in some areas, especially with regard to the PRT structures that both missions operate with funding and personnel support from USAID.  Transferring US soldiers to NATO command has led to increased integration, though the effect this will have on operations remains to be seen. 

Stage III and Stage IV expansion of the ISAF mission to the south and east of the country, taking over much of Operation Enduring Freedom's roles in those regions, has been completed. In the transition period, these new international forces were under the command of Operation Enduring Freedom, but as NATO took over command of the south on 31 July 2006, these additional forces, approximately 9000 mostly Canadian, British, and Dutch troops deployed across Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan, fell under the command of ISAF. As a result, ISAF troop numbers reached over 20,000 by the time Stage 3 expansion was completed. Stage 4 expansion, which saw ISAF assuming command of eastern Afghanistan, was completed on 5 October 2006. Approximately 11,300 US troops transferred to NATO command. PRTs will remain a focus of ISAF efforts, though larger troop formations are present and conducting stability operations, such as the over 6,700-strong British force deployed in Helmand.

According to ISAF and OEF commanders, these ISAF forces will have the same stabilization mission as ISAF troops in the rest of the country: "Our mandate will remain the same as it is in the north and the west ...It will not carry out counterterrorism operations. However it will have very robust rules of engagement and if people, insurgents, those who wish to prevent the security and the future of Afghanistan in any way prevent ISAF conducting its operation, we will, we can and we will take action if we have to. I would just finally like to stress once again the ISAF role in the south during Stage Three will not be to seek out those insurgents." Despite this claim, ISAF forces have engaged in offensive operations, such as Operation Medusa of August-September 2006 in the south, which was aimed at dislodging insurgents from strongholds and interrupting their operations.  The distinction between what counts as a counter-terrorism mission is also somewhat blurred, as ISAF forces can encounter Al Qaeda operatives.  According to a former US military spokesman, the difference is "really a nuance." The ISAF mandate is sufficiently vague to allow these types of operations to be conducted.  See: Mandates. 

Security Sector Reform

In 2002 at the Tokyo donor conference, the US convened a side meeting of G8 countries which agreed on a "lead donor system" for key reforms in the security sector, as the U.S. did not want to lead non-military efforts in what it saw as "nation-building" activities. The resulting division of labour among G8 countries was as follows:

Lead Donor

Area of SSR Responsibility

United States

Training the Afghan National Army


Training Officer Corps of ANA

EU / Germany*

Training Afghan National Police


Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR)


Judicial Reform



*The EU assumed responsibility for the training of Afghan police, though Germany is in command of the mission.  Prior to June 2007, German served as the sole lead nation for police reform. 

The lead donor arrangement has not been without problems, as some areas of responsibility have not been coordinated with the Bonn process, and the relation between certain priority areas has been neglected (for example the link between DDR and recruitment to the Afghan National Army). There have been problems with this arrangement, such as: poor coordination between these areas and the Bonn political process, poor coordination between pillars (for example the link between DDR and recruitment to the Afghan National Army), the inadequate capacity of some donors to establish sufficient programs, disputes between donors on appropriate strategies, and importantly the lack of Afghan leadership in the process. Emma Sky presented a more comprehensive critique of SSR and the lead donor system: "Afghanistan Case Study: The Lead Nation Approach" in "Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform: A Guide for Donors" Chapter 9.

In the end, the US has been deeply drawn into involvement in each sector, providing both large amounts of funding and personnel. In February 2007 the US announced an additional $11.8 billion in funding for Afghanistan, with $9.3 billion of this slotted for Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police equipment, training, and funding over 2007-2008.

Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration was carried out primarily under the Afghan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP). This UNDP and UNAMA-organized program completed the DDR process in June 2006, with over 63,000 former militia soldiers being disarmed. Since that time the ANBP has focused on the destruction of mine and ammunition stockpiles and the disbandment of illegal armed groups (DIAG). The ANBP has reported that since June 2006 only 25 % of DDR participants have found long-term and sustainable employment, though a Reintegration Support Project is expected to run until December 2007. The ANBP does not cover the armed groups that were not party to the Bonn Agreement, such as the Taliban or Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami. The ANBP is set to run until 2011. For reports on the DAIG project and the completed DDR program refer to the ANBP section of the UN Development Programme website.Coordination Mechanisms

There does not appear to be a hierarchical command structure that coordinates policy and operations amongst OEF, ISAF and UNAMA. Decisions are made through concrete liaison arrangements between all three missions as well as in consultation with the Afghan government. It can be assumed that discussions take place at the highest political levels within NATO and between the U.S., the UN, the Afghan government, and other ISAF troop contributing nations.  ISAF has liaison missions in all departments of the Afghan government and UNAMA. There exists in Kabul an informal 'tea club' of billionaire donor countries, whose ambassadors meet regularly with the SRSG.  According to an International Crisis Group policy brief, it is in these informal discussions that many policies are made.   While the Afghan government is nominally in charge of the development process, decisions on Afghanistan are often made in foreign capitals as individual donor countries set their own priorities.  This has led some to question who is really responsible for making decisions on Afghanistan.  The critical perspective is that Karzai is an American puppet, though this is only alleged and by no means a formal arrangement.   In any case, the poor coordination of the different missions and donor priorities can have a negative impact on development efforts and the adherence to the Afghanistan Compact framework. 

In the event of a crisis, each mission would react on its own, but it can be assumed that efforts at coordination would be made. Currently it is not clear which international actors can ultimately be held accountable for the success or failure of efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Only the Afghan government is being held accountable for the success or failure of these efforts, though significant media and public attention is being given to the mission in western countries. See: Analysis and Opinions.


Point 19 of the PRT terms of reference asserts that the PRTs follow their respective national chains of command. See: PRT Terms of Reference.  Each NATO country that provides troops has its own mandates and terms of engagement with the ISAF force in Afghanistan. Within a PRT, each element (military, development, diplomacy, policing, etc) tends to be in charge of its area of expertise. For example, the development component of the PRT would be the authority in that field. However, as security is a factor affecting all actions of the PRT, and the military component is in charge of security, certain operational decisions are deferred to military judgment.  Examples of such decisions would be where it is possible to operate safely, and when.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior and the ISAF commander co-chair a PRT Executive Steering Committee, which oversees the activities of the PRTs and meets every two to three months.  Created in 2004, it includes the ambassadors from the countries contributing troops to the PRTs, the Afghan Ministers of Finance and Rural Reconstruction and Development, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, the NATO Senior Civilian Representative, and the EU Special Representative.  US General David Barno, according to an officer who served under his command in 2004, was the 'catalyst' in establishing the PRT Executive Steering Committee.   The aim of the PRT ESC is to provide 'high-level' guidance on what activities the PRTs can do to support the Afghan government, define measures of effectiveness for the PRTs, and determine conditions for the handover to full government authority.  A PRT working group, which involves military, government, and NGO representatives, convenes weekly.

UNAMA's Coordination Role:

UNAMA maintains liaisons with both foreign military missions in Afghanistan, as well as the Afghan government. However, it does not dictate security policy, and focuses instead on developing governing capacity, democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and sustainable development. It serves as a coordinating agency for development and humanitarian agencies within Afghanistan. See: UNAMA.

NGO Civil-Military Working Group

In 2004 a Civil-Military working group was established by UNAMA, with the purpose of resolving operational issues and to provide a channel for NGO concerns and perspectives to the military, the Afghan government, and foreign donors.  The charter of the working group gives as its tasks developing effective methods of communication, identifying and prioritizing issues of concern and recommending solutions, developing systems for resolving conflicts, and documenting lessons learned.  However, this working group has been plagued by several problems: lack of participation by NGOs, indifference shown by the military, and non-existent Afghan government participation.   UNAMA has been the main coordination point between the PRTs and NGOs, while other points of contact have been through the NGO networks ACBAR and Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO).  In addition, some NGOs have contacts directly with PRTs in their areas. While some PRTs and NGOs at the local and national level feel they have good relations, among some NGOs there is a sense of unease about working with the PRTs, especially among Afghans who worry about being seen as cooperating with what some see as a foreign occupation force.

Coordination in the field differs from region to region and depends on the initiatives of the different actors operating in a given area. In the case of the military, this can shift from rotation to rotation. Using the Canadian military example, Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) units from different troop rotations have shown various levels of enthusiasm for holding regular consultations with NGOs, and NGOs have shown various levels of enthusiasm for meeting regularly with military forces.  Anecdotal evidence indicates that relations between NGOs and military actors are better at the field level than at the operational level, and that personalities are the determining factor in the quality of relations.  Events and troop rotations, however, can lead to quick changes in relations.

Additional Coordination Mechanisms:

NATO maintains a Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan, appointed by the NATO Secretary General on an ad hoc basis. The SCR is responsible for coordination between ISAF, the Afghan government, and civilian agencies, like UNAMA, operating in Afghanistan. The current SCR is Daan W. Everts of the Netherlands. He replaced Hikmet Cetin of Turkey, who served from 2003 until August 2006.

A Joint Coordination Body brings together UNAMA, ISAF, and the Afghan Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior (established in January 2002)

Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board

On 30 April 2006, the inaugural session of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board was held. This Board is intended to oversee, monitor, and assess progress on the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, and improve coordination amongst donors and the Afghan government. It consists of 28 members, including seven Afghans, the Special Representative of the Secretary General, representatives from the six largest donors (USA, UK, Japan, Germany, European Union, India), three neighbouring countries (Iran, Pakistan, China), and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Russian Federation, Canada, NATO, Coalition forces, the Netherlands, Italy, and France. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank also sit on the Board. The board is to meet quarterly, and publishes bi-annual reports on the progress of the Afghanistan Compact. As part of the coordination and awareness raising process, the Afghan government has been holding consultations with provincial groups on local needs and strategies for addressing poverty and other issues. The outcomes of consultations and reports are available on the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy website:

The International Crisis Group Policy Brief, "Afghanistan's Endangered Compact" criticizes the JCMB as being 'unwieldy' because of its large membership.  This report also claims that the JCMB places all responsibility for monitoring progress on the Afghanistan Compact and reporting to the JCMB on the Afghan Government's Oversight Committee.  The 'international community' is not held accountable for reporting or for progress on the Compact, nor for the numerous projects implemented not through the Afghan government.  The JCMB also lacks a full-time, functioning secretariat, though as of January 2007 one was being staffed.   

Policy Action Group

To address the threat of the insurgency in the southern provinces in a more coordinated manner, in June 2006 President Karzai with then COMISAF Gen. David Richards established a high-level task force known as the Policy Action Group.  Through a process led by the Afghan President, the PAG comprises four groups that address intelligence, security, strategic communication, and reconstruction and development. The committee will provide advice on these issues, and oversee an implementation team.  The PAG meets weekly and includes President Karzai as chair, the Afghan ministers of Defence, Internal Communications, and Education, top leaders of UNAMA, ISAF and OEF, and the ambassadors of the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands.

Links/Overlap Between OEF and ISAF

While on paper the operations are separate, in practice, there is a lot of overlap between OEF and ISAF's responsibilities in some areas, and the two missions operate in tandem with a large degree of synchronization of efforts. The U.S. sees both entities as linked tools in the larger 'war on terror'. Other governments draw very clear distinctions between the two missions. Ultimately, in practice the ISAF and OEF missions are intimately intertwined:

How OEF and ISAF Overlap

NATO countries contribute significant numbers of troops/equipment to OEF, though some of them with 'national caveats' specifying aspects of the mission that they cannot perform.

The US already contributes significantly to the ISAF force. ISAF, in some cases, relies on US capabilities such as strategic airlift, unmanned aerial vehicles, and especially helicopters. The US has provided such assistance to ISAF through an OEF-ISAF memorandum of understanding for several years. With the handover of southern and eastern Afghanistan to ISAF command, approximately 17,000 U.S. troops currently operate under ISAF command.

OEF focuses on a counter-terrorism mission, but as Taliban and insurgent strength and aggressiveness has grown, ISAF forces have adopted more aggressive tactics that are, in practice, indistinguishable from OEF's approach. Ultimately, the operational environment and requirements will likely continue to dictate the evolving missions of ISAF and OEF.

With the handover of OEF's area of responsibility in southern and eastern Afghanistan to NATO/ISAF in mid-late 2006, there is more synergy between the two missions. The December 2005 Operational Plan reiterated the primacy of the Afghan government in decision making, and provided for enhanced coordination between OEF and ISAF forces. This will be obtained by establishing "clear command arrangements."

As the U.S. is an enormously influential NATO member and appoints the military commander of NATO (The Supreme Allied Commander Europe SACEUR is always an American general), coordination of strategies used for ISAF and OEF likely happens at the highest levels. 

Past Discussions over Unified Command for OEF and ISAF

Despite opposing a large international force early on in the occupation of Afghanistan, by 2005 the U.S. made clear it wanted NATO to assume OEF operations as soon as possible. A White House Fact Sheet on Afghanistan read, "In close coordination with our NATO Allies, we hope to work gradually toward placing OEF and ISAF under a single NATO chain of command in order to maximize the efficiency of our overall stabilization efforts in the country.' On March 14, 2006 US General John Abizaid stated to the Senate Armed Services Committee that NATO would assume overall command of the U.S.-led OEF: "As NATO eventually assumes control over all conventional U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan, the United States will remain the single largest contributor of forces to this NATO effort, while also retaining a very robust counterterrorism force throughout the entire country." When ISAF was originally set up, the US was concerned that OEF troops conducting counter-terrorism activities would encounter ISAF troops, and the US wanted a clear chain of command. Germany and other EU countries wanted ISAF to have independent command. The UK pulled together a compromise by which ISAF retained operational command while ultimate authority lay with the US Afghan President Hamid Karzai clearly indicated his support for NATO taking over command of OEF since his election, as did the UK.   The US, despite being very influential, does not retain complete control over ISAF planning, as France and Germany resisted and blocked American efforts to have NATO assume OEF's counter-terror and counter-insurgency duties. Continuing debates within NATO about force contributions and operational caveats indicate that a unified command is still not likely in the Afghanistan context. 

Composition Of The Peace Operation

This section tracks, where possible, the size, composition, countries of origin of foreign military personnel, equipment and sources of financing, as well as police forces and civilian support personnel.

As Afghanistan is neither a UN mission nor an integrated mission, what constitutes the 'peace operation' in the country is open to debate. For the purposes of this website, we will track the contributions of the major international entities operating in Afghanistan in the security sphere, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) counterterrorism mission, and the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) involved in security sector reform projects. We will also track data on the Afghan National Army (ANA), as they provide a large part of the troops for security operations, working in cooperation with international forces, and a key part of the international strategy in Afghanistan is to create a strong ANA which would eventually assume all security duties from the OEF forces and ISAF. As data on these issues is often contested, we provide sources for all figures presented here.


International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)


ISAF is a multinational mission composed of contingents from 40 different countries, including all 26 NATO member states. The commander of ISAF is US General Stanley A. McChrystal. He took over command from US General David D. McKiernan in June 2009. He in turn had assumed command from US General Dan McNeill on June 3, 2008. 

The ISAF Headquarters is based in Kabul. It interacts with the Government of Afghanistan, the UN, and governmental and non-governmental organizations. The HQ serves as the operational command for the mission. Since NATO assumed command and control of the ISAF mission in August 2003, the ISAF Headquarters structure has evolved from one built around the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters model to a composite headquarters. The transition took place in February 2007.

Across Afghanistan, ISAF has five Regional Commands, with several Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in each one of them:

RC North

Mazar-e Sharif


RC West



RC Capital



RC South



RC East



The Regional Commands coordinate all regional civil-military activities conducted by the military elements of the PRTs in their area of responsibility, under operational control of ISAF. Each regional command is assumed by a lead nation and is composed of a Command and Control HQ and a Forward Support Base (FSB) that are essential logistic installations, created to provide a supply, medical and transport hub in each region to assist the PRTs. The FSBs are also used to host Quick Response Forces and tactical operations centers.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs)

While ISAF's primary mission consists in securing Afghanistan to permit speedy reconstruction and development, practical support for reconstruction and development efforts also stands as one ISAF's key supporting military tasks. Related activities are mainly implemented through its PRTs - small multi-disciplinary teams composed of a range of military and civilian personnel. As of December 2008, ISAF operated a total of 26 PRTs.

As Olson and Gregorian explain, PRTs on average include up to 150 military personnel who provide force protection to a range of civilian representatives, most commonly diplomats, government development agency staff, and police advisors. Some PRTs house counternarcotics teams, judicial and criminal experts from donor governments, and liaison officers from the Afghan Ministry of the Interior. Within this basic common structure, the national policies of the PRT lead nation govern the specific operations of any given PRT. With their mixed military-civilian composition, many PRTs reflect the "whole of government approaches" of the major donor countries and represent increased internal coordination between the military, aid and diplomatic departments of their lead nation. 

Critics argue that PRTs are only one step towards a more comprehensive strategy for reconstruction that still needs to be developed. PRTs were geared towards dampening the level of violence and managing short-term local reconstruction efforts, but they could not provide the core for a long-term effort. Moreover, there simply are not enough PRTs to reach out to all the regions of Afghanistan.  

Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs)

Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams are small teams (12-19 individuals) of experienced officers and NCOs embedded with Afghan National Army units to provide training and mentoring. OMLTs also provide a liaison capability between ANA and ISAF forces, co-ordinating the planning of operations and ensuring that the ANA units receive enabling support. OMLT personnel deploy for periods of at least 6 months in order to build enduring relationships with the ANA and maximise the mentoring effect.

NATO has deployed 20 OMLTs as of October 2007, taking over from US Embedded Training Teams (ETTs). In October 2007, Major General Cone, the commanding general of Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A), announced plans to add another 80 training teams in the near future, although it was not clear form his statement how many of these additional teams would be set up by ISAF as opposed to CSTC-A itself. OMLTs composed of ISAF troops submit their progress reports to Task Force Phoenix, an element of CSTC-A, which is responsible for reform and development of the ANA.

Strength of National Contingents

 As of December 22 2009 there are approximately 84,150 troops and there are 43 troop contributing nations.This figure includes national contingent commands. Equipment and direct costs of ISAF are paid for by troop contributing nations. Individual contributions by each country change frequently due to the rotation of troops and different commitments from different countries. However, some trends are clear. Long-time NATO members consistently provide the most troops, as the charts below show. The top troop contributors are the USA, the UK, Germany, France, Canada and Italy.





























N. Zealand












Bosnia & Herzegovina
































Cz. Rep.






ISAF total










December 22d 2009. Source: ISAF websiteDebate About Caveats and Size of Contingents

ISAF operates under a unified command within Afghanistan (see Coordination Arrangements). However, individual nations often place certain caveats on their contingents, such as forbidding them to undertake offensive operations against insurgents. General James Jones, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, called such national caveats an "operational cancer" and an "impediment to success."  These caveats continue to cause operational difficulties for ISAF commanders and tended to overshadow recent Alliance meetings such as the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008. Caveats can include limits on patrols, usage of airlift capabilities, and where certain countries can deploy their soldiers. Germany, Italy, Spain, and France often bear the brunt of such accusations, but defend their commitments. Caveats can be the result of political considerations, disagreements about certain aspects of the mission, or lack of proper training or equipment.

The ongoing controversy among troop-contributing countries about the unwillingness of certain member states to send its troops to the volatile south and east of Afghanistan as well as growing domestic opposition against the ISAF mission cast doubts on NATO's enduring role. In recent months, key troop contributors faced crucial decisions on whether to renew their commitments to the mission. The Dutch government postponed a parliamentary debate last autumn on its contribution because the deployment had become so politically sensitive before extending the mandate of their troops for another three years up to December 2010. Canada's government appointed an independent panel to review the country's mission in Afghanistan. Following the Panel's recommendations, the Canadian House of Commons decided to keep its troops in Afghanistan for at least another two years. The German parliament extended the mandate of its ISAF contingent for one year, but maintained its veto on the participation of German troops in combat operations outside its current area of operations in the relatively stable north of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the UK and the US are in the process of significantly increasing their forces in Afghanistan.

ISAF has been criticized as lacking a unity of purpose. They are required to go beyond the normal limits of counter-insurgency and military strategy. In fact, they are said to be doing nothing short of armed nation building and at the same time defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Placing caveats on their troops limits their use and therefore they might not be able to capitalize on victories against the Taliban and hold territory. Taliban influence has gradually increased in Afghanistan's 264 administrative districts. In 2003 they held 30 districts, in 2008 that grew to 160. Insurgent attacks have also increased by 60% from 2008 to 2009. All the while the Taliban have lost almost every battle against ISAF forces.


Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)

Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan (OEF-A) has two major commands: Combined Joint Task Force 101 (CJTF 101) and the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A). Since the Stage IV transition of authority to ISAF, the status of various troops previously assigned to OEF-A has been unclear, but the operation is still in charge of counter-terrorist operations, mainly in the south and east of the country.  CSTC-A is responsible for training the ANA through Task Force Phoenix and also interacts with the EU-led project training the ANP.

While the vast majority of troops under Operation Enduring Freedom are currently from the United States, many other coalition partners contribute special forces troops, training teams for the Afghan National Army, ships, helicopters, aircraft and other equipment.  In a January 2007 CRS Report to Congress, Middle East expert Kenneth Katzman claimed there were around 1,000 non-US troops operating as part of the US-led coalition.  Partners such as Pakistan and Djibouti provide air and logistics bases, landing rights, and other services.  Many countries contribute forces to both ISAF and OEF in Afghanistan. Over the period 2004-2006, nations contributing significantly to OEF, besides the United States, according to the coalition's website are: Germany, France, Spain, U.K., Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Australia, Italy, and New Zealand.  Please note that the troop numbers provided on these links are not current, as troop numbers shift continuously.

Prior to the NATO takeover of command, there were conflicting numbers presented by the NGO Security Council Report and OEF indicating total troop numbers in Afghanistan under OEF, as the charts below, both dated March 2006, show.

OEF's composition in March 2006
• troops: 22,100
• US troops: 19,000
• Contributors of military personnel: 20 countries
[Source: UN Security Council Report, Afghanistan, March 2006]

Coalition forces in Afghanistan
More than 26,000:
• United States: more than 18,500
• Allies: nearly 7,500
• Allied nations: 25
[Source: CFC-A Press Centre & Fact Sheet: linked here (re coalition forces, March 9, 2006)]

With the transfer of command to ISAF by mid-late 2006, a gradual draw down of U.S. troops in the south was expected. However continuing security challenges have resulted in a troop increase, with now up to 27,000 US troops in Afghanistan. 

OEF was responsible for establishing the first PRTs in Afghanistan in 2002.  With the expansion of NATO forces in late 2003, command of PRTs began to shift over to NATO nations.  By September 2005, the United States led thirteen PRTs under OEF, though now leads only twelve under NATO command.

Financial Costs of OEF

Maintaining the military mission in and around Afghanistan cost the US an average of US$1.3 billion per month in 2005. In comparison, the US spent an average of US$6.4 billion per month on operations in Iraq.


United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

UNAMA reports approximately 1500 staff (about 80% of them are national staff). It has a budget of $168 million with 18 offices regional and provincial offices including liaison officers in Islamabad and Teheran. 

 (For more information, see United Nations in Afghanistan)

Afghan National Army (ANA) & Afghan National Police (ANP)

A central part of the international strategy in Afghanistan is to create a strong Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) which would eventually assume all security duties from OEF and ISAF. In December 2007, a spokesman of the Afghan defense ministry announced that the ANA currently stood at  around 57,000 soldiers and that it would reach a targeted strength of 70,000 within four months, i.e. by the end of March 2008. Its final target size is 70,000, although some observers believe the goal might be scaled back to 50,000 because of the sustainment costs to the Afghan government. At the same time, however, there are reports that the United States recently agreed to support a request from Kabul for an army of 80,000. The Afghan defense ministry even thinks Afghanistan needs a 200,000 strong army. It is hard to say how many operational soldiers the ANA currently has because the figures given by official sources often do not take into account desertion, ghost names, and the incompetence of many.

Training of ANA units was initially conducted by ISAF. In 2003 this responsibility was transferred to OEF as ISAF did not have the resources necessary to implement sufficient training. The effort is being led by the United States through its Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A), which is part of Central Command (USCENTCOM). Recently the United States announced that it would spend $3.4 billion during the remainder of the current fiscal year (2007) on supporting the ANA and ANP, followed by $5.9 billion in 2008. The funds will be used for training as well as the purchase of small arms, tanks, and helicopters and other aircraft. ISAF's involvement with the ANA focuses on its employment rather than its manning, initial training and sustainment. It assists the ANA to bring its units up to operating capability through the provision of Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs). These teams support training and deploy on operations in an advisory role. In late 2007 and early 2008, the number of international trainers and mentors is slated to quadruple, as the number and capabilities of those security forces continues to grow. Plans are to augment the training teams already operating across Afghanistan with another 80 teams. Training emphasis will now be shifted from individual instruction to the training of larger units like battalions and brigades.

The ANA is earning mixed reviews. Some U.S. and allied officers say that the ANA is becoming a major force in stabilizing the country and a national symbol. Although forces sporadically disperse while on a mission, for the most part, they are operational and are undertaking critical security missions, counterterrorism operations, and drug interdictions. It is increasingly able to conduct its own battalion-strength operations, as demonstrated in early December 2007 when ANA forces retook and secured the center of Musa Qala (Helmand) after several months of Taliban control. The ANA now has at least some presence in most of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The United States has built four regional bases for it (Herat, Gardez, Qandahar, and Mazar-e-Sharif). Despite these positive developments, challenges remain. There are reports of continuing personnel (desertion, absentee) problems, ill discipline, and drug abuse. Some recruits take long trips to their home towns to remit funds to their families, and often then return to the ANA after a long absence. Others refuse to serve far from their home towns. Equipment, maintenance, and logistical difficulties continue to plague the ANA. Few soldiers have helmets, many have no armored vehicles or armor. Despite reform processes to increase the pay, income for those in the lower ranks remains insufficient to meet more than the most basic needs. ANA soldiers now receive $100 per month as a new recruit. In some reported cases, the Taliban are paying up to $12 per day, three times as much as the ANA field soldiers receive, and there is evidence of defection from the national security forces to the Taliban ranks. 

As of July 2009 the size of the Afghan National Army (ANA) states at 93,000 with an expected growth of 134,000 but December 2011. The current size of the army is a source of frustration for both Afghan and US officials. With the US expected to begin its withdrawal by 2011 it is hoped that security responsibilities will be transferred to Afghan security forces. Despite the expected increase in troops levels by 2011, questions continue to remain as to the desired size of the ANA. The authorized combined strength of the ANA (134,000) and ANP (82,000) would roughly be one third the size of the security forces in Iraq in a country that is larger. However, there are plans by the Obama administration to increase the authorized number of the Afghan Army to 260,000. This size is nearly three times the size estimated by the US officials in 2002 when it seemed as if the Taliban and Al Qaeda had been defeated. This is another indicator of how the insurgency has grown and created a much more volatile security situation.

Though the increased size of the ANA seems to be important to combat the spreading insurgency, there are some political concerns rising. There are some who fear that an enlarged Afghan army would be a destabilizing factor in the already weak and corrupt Afghan political system. Despite this, the risk of an overly powerful Afghan army is outweighed by the risk of a government collapsing at the hands of the insurgency.

Increasing the size of the ANA to 260,000 will come at a much greater financial cost which the international community will have to bare. The initial level of 134,000 would be priced at $12 billion while the higher projected figure would be at a price of about $20 billion over the next six or seven years. This far outstrips the $1.1 billion dollar budget for the Afghan government. Senator Levin (D) who chairs the Armed Services Committee commented that "the cost is relatively small compared to the cost of not doing it." The cost of an Afghan Army does not simply stop at this point. US and international investment in the ANA might have to continue for a while as President Karzai said that the ANA would need external funding for the next 15 years

While it has been said that the ANA is becoming a major force in stabilizing the nation and becoming a national symbol, it is clear that leadership is a major problem in the ranks of the army. In a December 22nd 2010 article by Foreign Policy magazine, Lt. Gen. William Cladwell was quoted as saying that attention should be given to improving the leadership of the Afghan security forces rather than simply looking to increase troop numbers. Lack of leadership and frequent abuses of power are what led Pashtun tribes to support the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

A major problems in the ANA is that of nepotism. In a government and a military that is starving for meritocracy there too many appointments made on familial relations or friendships. An example of this is of Brig. Gen. Shams former commander of the 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps. Brig. Gen Shams had too little experience for a brigade commander and was appointed due to his political connections. While he was socializing in Jalalabad he failed to organize any brigade level operations and corruption was rampant. There is urgent need to reconceptualise rebuilding Afghanistan's security forces and that is to combine short-term fixes with long term involvement. This would take a much longer US involvement in the Afghan army but in the long run it would be a much better use of resources. Unfortunately, the performance of the Afghan National Police is not yet comparable to that of the ANA. In 2001, Germany accepted the role of lead nation for the build-up of the ANP but sent only 40 police advisers to Kabul. The international effort to train a new police force was beset by infighting, inconsistency and a slow pace. Until mid-2003, no systematic police-training program existed outside Kabul.  Consequently, other countries like the US got more involved in the process. In 2004, the US State Department hired a private contractor to train the ANP. Afghan officials complained that the training program was only two weeks long. In April 2005, the responsibility for the US contribution to ANP support was transferred to the Department of Defense. At first, it dispatched 300 advisers. Even though increased US involvement was generally welcomed, international partners have had differing views on the appropriateness of international soldiers training a domestic police force. Furthermore, the US answer turned out to be a quick fix, failing to obtain a single vision with the Germans or the Europeans, failing to engage the UN so that perhaps it could have fostered the needed coordination. Now while the number of deployed police stands at some 70,000, many patrolmen have had only two weeks training, the most about eight weeks. In mid-2007, the EU assumed responsibility for training the ANP. However, its early efforts have faltered over funding and staffing issues. The EU trainer numbers fall far short of what is necessary. The EU has agreed to send 195 police trainers from 25 member states. By the beginning of November 2007, however, not even half of them had arrived in Kabul. At the moment, the US, EU and others are carrying out a sweeping $2.5 billion overhaul of Afghanistan's police force that will include retraining all 72,000 members and embedding 2,350 advisers in police stations across the country. The US contribution will be commanded by CSTC-A and consist of 500 trainers, mainly employees of private security firms such as DynCorp.

The creation of police forces is a more complex and decentralized function than creating an army, and one that has to overcome Afghanistan's entrenched rivalries between center and periphery and among tribal leaders and warlords. The ANP has insufficient presence in rural districts, and those that are patrolling are perceived to be corrupt, abusive, and lacking discipline. The ANP work in the communities they come from, often embroiling them in local factional or ethnic disputes. Since pay is both abysmally low and highly irregular, the lure of corruption is overwhelming. Many officers are local commanders and militia members in different clothes. In many districts the police are the only representatives that Afghans come across from the Karzai government, and their bad behavior is undermining the legitimacy of the central government. Rebuilding a police force is not just a matter of putting people through basic training; it is actually a matter of establishing middle management structures, establishing credible fiscally sustainable funding mechanisms for such institutions, and most importantly, it is a matter of establishing an ethos of loyalty to the civil power, which historically has not been present in Afghanistan, and in the absence of which, one can only expect mayhem to result.

A joint report by the Royal United Services Institute and the Foreign Policy Research Institute concludes that ANP reform is finally getting the attention it needs. Far from being an important part of the stat building effort, the crime and insecurity brought about by the ANP has caused many to mistrust the government. Thus it undermines the Afghan government's ability to project itself throughout the country. The conclusion of the report is that the obsession with numbers must stop and police-building must be replaced with police reform. These reforms need to look at measures to maintain internal disciple and ensure external over sight. At the same time they must also focus on the broader issue of the overall justice sector. There are lessons to draw from past missions in Timor-Leste, Kosovo and Sierra Leone to name a few. However, attention must be paid to the unique social, cultural, political and security factors that govern Afghan society. The report also looks at the problem of non-state security actors but at the same time recommends the use of non-state justice actors i.e. local dispute resolution mechanisms. The overall goal of providing policy reform is to conceptualize and implement a strategy that is pragmatic, affordable and achievable. However, despite this, the critical resources needed to reform the Afghan police is that of time. The British head of justice and security Dr. Ian Oliver commented that it could take up to 30 years of engagement to create and effective police force. Already there are faint signs of hope when in July 2009 the ANP and other Afghan security forces thwarted off attacked on government buildings in Gardez and Jalalabad.

Despite efforts to build and reform the ANP, another major stumbling block is the presence of private security companies. With higher pay and a relatively safer work environment the ANP is losing many of its recruits to these PMCs. With deserters and AWOL recruits joining these companies the Afghan government has tried to regulate the activities of PMCs in order to put them on an even playing field with the ANP. Interior minister Mohamad Hanif Atmar is the official responsible to drafting these rules. These rules ensure that PMCs are licensed, operate under set conditions and place caps on who can be hired. The rules will also make it more difficult for deserters and AWOLs to be hired as they would not have the proper leaving certificate showing that that they completed their term of service honourably. History of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)

In the initial invasion of Afghanistan, OEF was undertaken by a coalition of nations, with contributions coming from 55 nations and varying from indirect support such as permitting use of airspace and use of facilities for logistics, to the contribution of naval, air, and ground forces. Some of the major contributors to the initial campaign were made by the UK, Canada, France, Australia, and Germany. By January 2002, Special Forces from Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Germany, and Turkey were operating in Afghanistan. Exact numbers of Special Forces soldiers or details of their actions are not readily available.

Support did not come only from traditional western allies. Egypt, Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ethiopia are examples of non-traditional allies that offered support to US operations. Pakistan was a very critical partner in the coalition.

However, the largest contingent of foreign soldiers came from the United States. The US had 20,000 to 25,000 troops in the region before 11 September 2001. By 8 November there were more than 50,000 American troops in the region, with Special Forces and 10th Mountain Division soldiers based in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Most of these were based aboard ships. By January 2002 the reported number of US troops in Afghanistan was over 4,000, a number which increased to 8,000 by August of that year. The US deployed 500 aircraft and 14,000 Air Force personnel by November 2001.

OEF tactics against the insurgents initially involved using Special Forces to confront high-value insurgent targets directly, while air-mobile light infantry would confront large concentrations of anti-OEF forces. The support of local militias was used widely. Starting in late 2002 and maturing in 2003, the coalition implemented the PRT concept, and by late 2004 emphasis had shifted from 'sweep and raid' operations to supporting the PRTs.

Anti-terrorism activities led to the support to local militias by the United States, who saw it as a military necessity because of the local knowledge militia groups had, and the absence of a strong national army. However, supporting and strengthening militia groups also ran counter to the goal of creating a strong central government with a strong national army. Since 2003, the US has increasingly tried to avoid this practice, thereby minimizing the contradiction between the anti-terror aims of OEF and the Afghan government's goal of bringing all armed groups within the country under its influence. OEF currently concentrates its efforts primarily in the eastern region of Afghanistan, though support to ISAF throughout the country is also provided.


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