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NATO in Afghanistan

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established under the request of the Afghan authorities and a UN mandate in 2001. ISAF was led by NATO from Aug. 2003 to Dec. 2014 and was succeeded on Jan.1, 2015 by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM), which was terminated early Sep. 2021.

ISAF's mission was to develop new Afghan security forces and enable Afghan authorities to provide effective security across the country in order to create an environment conducive to the functioning of democratic institutions and the establishment of the rule of law, with the aim to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

ISAF contributed to reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. This was done primarily through multinational Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) – led by individual ISAF troop-contributing countries – securing areas in which reconstruction work could be conducted by national and international actors. PRTs also helped the Afghan authorities progressively strengthen the institutions required to fully establish good governance and the rule of law, as well as to promote human rights. The principal role of the PRTs in this respect was to build capacity, support the growth of governance structures and promote an environment in which governance can improve.

ISAF was one of the largest international crisis management operations ever, bringing together contributions from up to 51 different countries. By end 2014, the process of transitioning full security responsibility from ISAF troops to the Afghan army and police forces was completed and the ISAF mission came to a close. It was immediately succeeded by a new NATO-led, non-combat mission, Resolute Support, to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions.

The Resolute Support Mission (RSM) operated with one hub (in Kabul/Bagram) and four spokes in Mazar-e Sharif (northern Afghanistan), Herat (western Afghanistan), Kandahar (southern Afghanistan) and Laghman (eastern Afghanistan).

Key functions included: supporting planning, programming and budgeting; assuring transparency, accountability and oversight; supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance; supporting the establishment and sustainment of processes such as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel.

The legal basis of RSM rested on a formal invitation from the Afghan government and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between NATO and Afghanistan, which governed the presence of Allied troops. Resolute Support was also supported by the international community at large. This is reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 2189, unanimously adopted on Dec. 12, 2014. This resolution welcomed RSM and underscored the importance of continued international support for the stability of Afghanistan.

In Apr. 2021, the Allies decided to start the withdrawal of RSM forces by May 1, 2021 and the mission was terminated early Sep. 2021.

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