International military engagement in Afghanistan (ISAF)


ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) has been in operation since December 2001. The mission has a mandate from the United Nations Security Council to help the Afghan Government create and maintain a secure and stable environment.

Until mid-2006, ISAF operated only in the capital Kabul and in the north and west of the country. Since 31 July 2006, it has also been responsible for the southern region. On 5 October 2006, it was expanded to cover the eastern region in order to continue and develop the stabilization and reconstruction work carried out there hitherto by the US‑led Operation Enduring Freedom. At present a total of 50 nations contribute around 100,000 soldiers to ISAF. NATO is represented in Afghanistan by ISAF Commander General Allen of the US Marine Corps and by Ambassador Maurits R. Jochems, NATO Senior Civilian Representative. Under its support mandate, ISAF can use armed force for its own defence as well as for the protection of the Afghan Government and people. The UN mandate authorizes ISAF “to take all necessary measures, including the use of military force, in order to implement its mission in accordance with the Security Council Resolution”..

Leadership role in the north

German military policeman instructing Afghan soldiers

German military policeman instructing Afghan soldiers
© picture alliance / dpa

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German military policeman instructing Afghan soldiers

German military policeman instructing Afghan soldiers

Germany has been contributing to ISAF since 22 December 2001 (when the German Bundestag passed the first ISAF mandate) and is one of its major troop providers. It currently provides the third-largest contingent in Afghanistan. The Bundestag last voted on 26 January 2012 to extend Germany’s participation in ISAF until 31 January 2013. In order to achieve the “responsible handover” agreed at the London Conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010, and confirmed at the NATO Summit of 21 November 2010, Germany has made the training of Afghan security forces and the protection of the Afghan population the main priorities of its military involvement. In principle, German forces are only deployed in Kabul and northern Afghanistan. Germany also supports ISAF in other areas by providing air surveillance and air transport, including transport of wounded personnel. The mandate allows Germany to provide further support in other parts of Afghanistan only if that support is limited in time and scope and is “essential” for the achievement of the overall mission.

Military training in Afghanistan

Germany has assumed a leadership role within ISAF in the north of Afghanistan. Major General Pfeffer is currently the Commander for the entire region. He will be succeeded in February 2013 by Major General Vollmer. In the provincial capital Kunduz, Germany has put in place a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) with a civilian and a military component. The PRT Kunduz was placed under civilian leadership on 15 November 2012. The official handover has already taken place in large parts of the province; the Bundeswehr transferred responsibility for security to Afghan forces in the capital, Kunduz, and other areas on 11 July. Foreign Minister Westerwelle emphasized: “Our involvement in Afghanistan increasingly has a civilian face.”

The other two bases previously operated by Germany in Taloqan and Feyzabad have already been closed following a successful handover of responsibility to the Afghan security forces.

More information on the ISAF mission is available on the following websites:

The ISAF website

The Bundeswehr website (in German)

Last updated 18.12.2012

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