|International Security Assistance Force|
|Dates of operation||20 December 2001– 28 December 2014|
|Country||see "Contributing nations" below|
|Size||130,000 (At peak of deployment in 2012)|
|Battles and wars||the War in Afghanistan|
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was a multinational military mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. It was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1386 pursuant to the Bonn Agreement, which outlined the establishment of a permanent Afghan government following the U.S. invasion in October 2001. ISAF's primary goal was to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and assist Afghanistan in rebuilding key government institutions; however, it gradually took part in the broader war in Afghanistan against the Taliban insurgency.
ISAF's initial mandate was to secure the Afghan capital of Kabul and its surrounding area against opposition forces to facilitate the formation of the Afghan Transitional Administration headed by Hamid Karzai. In 2003, NATO took command of the mission at the request of the UN and Afghan government, marking its first deployment outside Europe and North America. Shortly thereafter, the UN Security Council expanded ISAF's mission to provide and maintain security beyond the capital region. ISAF incrementally broadened its operations in four stages, and by 2006 took responsibility for the entire country; ISAF subsequently engaged in more intensive combat in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
At its peak between 2010 and 2012, ISAF had 400 military bases throughout Afghanistan (compared to 300 for the ANSF) and roughly 130,000 troops. A total of 42 countries contributed troops to ISAF, including all 30 members of NATO. Personnel contributions varied greatly throughout the course of the mission: Initially, Canada was the largest contributor, though by 2010 the United States accounted for the majority of troops, followed by the United Kingdom, Turkey, Germany, France, and Italy; nations such as Georgia, Denmark, Norway, and Estonia were among the largest contributors per capita. The intensity of the combat faced by participating countries varied greatly, with the U.S. sustaining the most casualties overall, while British, Danish, Estonian, and Georgian forces suffered the most deaths for their size.
Pursuant to its ultimate aim of transitioning security responsibilities to Afghan forces, ISAF ceased combat operations and was disbanded in December 2014. A number of troops remained to serve a supporting and advisory role as part of its successor organization, the Resolute Support Mission.
For almost two years, the ISAF mandate did not go beyond the boundaries of Kabul. According to General Norbert Van Heyst, such a deployment would require at least ten thousand additional soldiers. The responsibility for security throughout the whole of Afghanistan was to be given to the newly reconstituted Afghan National Army. However, on 13 October 2003, the Security Council voted unanimously to expand the ISAF mission beyond Kabul with Resolution 1510. Shortly thereafter, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said that Canadian soldiers (nearly half the entire force at that time) would not deploy outside Kabul.
On 24 October 2003, the German Bundestag voted to send German troops to the region of Kunduz. Approximately 230 additional soldiers were deployed to that region, marking the first time that ISAF soldiers operated outside of Kabul. After the Afghan parliamentary election in September 2005 the Canadian base Camp Julien in Kabul closed, and the remaining Canadian assets were moved to Kandahar as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in preparation for a significant deployment in January 2006. On 31 July 2006, the NATO‑led International Security Assistance Force assumed command of the south of the country, ISAF Stage 3, and by 5 October, also of the east of Afghanistan, ISAF Stage 4.
The mandates given by the different governments to their forces varied from country to country. This meant that ISAF suffered from a lack of united aims.
The initial ISAF headquarters (AISAF) was based on 3rd UK Mechanised Division, led at the time by Major General John McColl. This force arrived in December 2001. Until ISAF expanded beyond Kabul, the force consisted of a roughly division-level headquarters and one brigade covering the capital, the Kabul Multinational Brigade. The brigade was composed of three battle groups, and was in charge of the tactical command of deployed troops. ISAF headquarters served as the operational control center of the mission.
Eighteen countries were contributors to the force in February 2002, and it was expected to grow to 5,000 soldiers. Turkey assumed command of ISAF in June 2002 (Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu). During this period, the number of Turkish troops increased from about 100 to 1,300. In November 2002, ISAF consisted of 4,650 troops from over 20 countries. Around 1,200 German troops served in the force alongside 250 Dutch soldiers operating as part of a German-led battalion. Turkey relinquished command in February 2003, and assumed command for a second time in February 2005. Turkey's area of operations expanded into the rugged west of Afghanistan. The expansion of its zone of activities saw ISAF troops operating in 50 percent of Afghanistan, double its previous responsibility.
On 10 February 2003, German Lieutenant General Norbert van Heyst took command of ISAF, with Brigadier General Bertholee of the Netherlands serving as Deputy. The mission HQ was formed from HQ I. German/Dutch Corps (1GNC), including staff from the UK, Italy, Turkey, Norway, and others. In March 2003, ISAF was composed of 4,700 troops from 28 countries. Service in ISAF by NATO personnel from 1 June 2003. onward earns the right to wear the NATO Medal if a service-member met a defined set of tour length requirements.
In Kabul on 7 June 2003, a taxi packed with explosives rammed a bus carrying German ISAF personnel, killing four soldiers and wounding 29 others; one Afghan bystander was killed and 10 Afghan bystanders were wounded. The 33 German soldiers, after months on duty in Kabul, were en route to the Kabul International Airport for their flight home to Germany. At the time, Germans soldiers made up more than 40 percent of ISAF troops.
ISAF command originally rotated among different nations every six months. However, there was tremendous difficulty securing new lead nations. To solve the problem, the command was turned over indefinitely to NATO on 11 August 2003. This marked NATO's first deployment outside Europe or North America.
Colombia had planned to deploy around 100 soldiers in Spring 2009. These forces were expected to be de-mining experts. General Freddy Padilla de Leon announced to CBS News that operators of Colombia's Special Forces Brigade were scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in either August or September 2009. However, the Colombians were not listed as part of the force as of June 2011.
Three NATO states announced withdrawal plans beginning in 2010. Canada in 2011, Poland, in 2012, and the United Kingdom in 2010. Between 1 July 2014, and August, Regional Command Capital and Regional Command West were re-designated Train Advise and Assist Command Capital (TAAC Capital) and TAAC West. The United States ended combat operations in Afghanistan in December 2014. Sizable advisory forces would remain to train and mentor Afghan National Security Forces, and NATO will continue operating under the Resolute Support Mission. ISAF Joint Command, in its final deployment provided by Headquarters XVIII Airborne Corps, ceased operations ahead of the end of the NATO combat mission on 8 December 2014.
From 2006, the insurgency by the Taliban intensified, especially in the southern Pashtun parts of the country, areas that were the Taliban's original power base in the mid‑1990s. After ISAF took over command of the south on 31 July 2006, British, Dutch, Canadian and Danish ISAF soldiers in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, and Kandahar came under almost daily attack. British commanders said that the fighting for them was the fiercest since the Korean War, 50 years previously. In an article, BBC reporter Alastair Leithead, embedded with the British forces, called it "Deployed to Afghanistan's hell."
Because of the security situation in the south, and the mass rape and killings of afghan woman by suspected taliban ISAF commanders asked member countries to send more troops. On 19 October, for example, the Dutch government decided to send more troops because of increasing attacks by suspected Taliban on their Task Force Uruzgan, making it very difficult to complete the reconstruction work that they sought to accomplish.
Prior to October 2008, ISAF had only served an indirect role in fighting the illegal opium economy in Afghanistan through shared intelligence with the Afghan government, protection of Afghan poppy crop eradication units and helping in the coordination and the implementation of the country's counter-narcotics policy. For example, Dutch soldiers used military force to protect eradication units that came under attack.
Crop eradication often affects the poorest farmers who have no economic alternatives on which to fall back. Without alternatives, these farmers no longer can feed their families, causing anger, frustration, and social protest. Thus, being associated with this counterproductive drug policy, ISAF soldiers on the ground found it difficult to gain the support of the local population.
Though problematic for NATO, this indirect role allowed NATO to avoid the opposition of the local population who depended on the poppy fields for their livelihood. In October 2008, NATO altered its position in an effort to curb the financing of insurgency by the Taliban. Drug laboratories and drug traders became the targets, and not the poppy fields themselves. In order to satisfy France, Italy and Germany, the deal involved the participation in an anti-drug campaign only of willing NATO member countries; the campaign was to be short-lived and with the cooperation of the Afghans.
On 10 October 2008, during a news conference, after an informal meeting of NATO Defense Ministers in Budapest, Hungary, NATO Spokesman James Appathurai said:
...with regard to counter-narcotics, based on the request of the Afghan government, consistent with the appropriate U.N. Security Council Resolutions, under the existing operational plan, ISAF can act in concert with the Afghans against facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency, subject to the authorization of respective nations.... The idea of a review is, indeed, envisioned for an upcoming meeting.
ISAF military casualties, and the civilian casualties caused by the war and Coalition/ISAF friendly fire, became a major political issue, both in Afghanistan and in the troop contributing nations. Increasing civilian casualties threatened the stability of President Hamid Karzai's government. Consequently, effective from 2 July 2009, coalition air and ground combat operations were ordered to take steps to minimize Afghan civilian casualties in accordance with a tactical directive issued by General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Another issue over the years has been numerous 'insider' attacks involving Afghan soldiers opening fire on ISAF soldiers. While these diminished, in part due to the planned ending of combat operations on 31 December 2014, they continued to occur, albeit at a lower frequency. On 5 August 2014, a gunman believed to have been an Afghan soldier opened fire on a number of international soldiers, killing a U.S. general, Harold J. Greene, and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers, including a German brigadier general and several U.S. soldiers, at a training academy near Kabul.
Throughout the four different regional stages of ISAF the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) grew. The expansion of ISAF, to November 2006, to all provinces of the country brought the total number of PRTs to twenty-five. The twenty-fifth PRT, at Wardak, was established that month and was led by Turkey. Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, at Brunssum, the Netherlands, was ISAF's superior NATO headquarters. The headquarters of ISAF was located in Kabul. In October 2010, there were 6 Regional Commands, each with subordinate Task Forces and Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The lower strength numbers of the ISAF forces were as 6 October 2008. The numbers also reflected the situation in the country. The north and west were relatively calm, while ISAF and Afghan forces in the south and east came under almost daily attack. In December 2014 the force reportedly numbered 18,636 from 48 states.
The command of ISAF has rotated between officers of the participating nations. The first American took command in February 2007 and only Americans have commanded ISAF since that time.
|Term of office||Defence branch||Notes|
|Took office||Left office||Time in office|
John C. McColl
|10 January 2002||20 June 2002||161 days||British Army||Initial ISAF HQ formed from HQ 3rd Mechanised Division|
Hilmi Akin Zorlu
|20 June 2002||10 February 2003||235 days||Turkish Land Forces|
Norbert van Heyst
|10 February 2003||11 August 2003||182 days||German Army|
|11 August 2003||9 February 2004||182 days||German Army|
Rick J. Hillier
|9 February 2004||9 August 2004||182 days||Canadian Army|
|9 August 2004||13 February 2005||188 days||French Army|
|13 February 2005||5 August 2005||173 days||Turkish Land Forces||Former commander of 3rd Corps (Turkey)|
Mauro del Vecchio
|5 August 2005||4 May 2006||272 days||Italian Army||Former commander of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Italy and appointed to become commander of Italian Joint Operational Headquarters|
Sir David J. Richards
|4 May 2006||4 February 2007||276 days||British Army|
Dan K. McNeill
|4 February 2007||3 June 2008||1 year, 120 days||United States Army||Former Commander of the Army Forces Command.|
David D. McKiernan
|3 June 2008||15 June 2009||1 year, 12 days||United States Army||Relieved from command by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.|
Stanley A. McChrystal
|15 June 2009||23 June 2010||1 year, 8 days||United States Army||Resigned and was relieved from command due to critical remarks directed at the Obama administration in a Rolling Stone Magazine article.|
|23 June 2010||4 July 2010||11 days||British Army||Served as deputy commander of ISAF from McChrystal's resignation up to Petraeus's assumption of command.|
David H. Petraeus
|4 July 2010||18 July 2011||1 year, 14 days||United States Army||Nominated to become the fourth Director of the CIA.|
John R. Allen
|18 July 2011||10 February 2013||1 year, 207 days||United States Marine Corps||Near the end of his term, General Allen became embroiled in an inappropriate communication investigation.|
Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
|10 February 2013||26 August 2014||1 year, 197 days||United States Marine Corps||Nominated to become the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps.|
John F. Campbell
|26 August 2014||28 December 2014||124 days||United States Army||Became the 1st commander of ISAF's successor command, Resolute Support Mission.|
All NATO member states have contributed troops to the ISAF, as well as some other partner states of the NATO alliance.
Resolution 1386 of the United Nations Security Council established that the expense of the ISAF operation must be borne by participating states. For this purpose the resolution established a trust fund through which contributions could be channeled to the participating states or operations concerned, and encouraged the participating states to contribute to such a fund.
Stene, Lillian K. "Rational beliefs- inconsistent practices, civil military coordination in North Afghanistan." PhD thesis University of Stavanger no 230. September 2014
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