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International Security Assistance Force
Official emblem (top) and flags (middle and bottom) of the International Security Assistance Force.
Active December 2001–present
Country See Contributing nations
Allegiance NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Part of

Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum
Brunssum, Netherlands

American contingent responsible to:
United States Central Command
MacDill AFB, Florida, U.S.
Headquarters Kabul, Afghanistan
Motto(s) Pashto writing: کمک او همکاری (Komak aw Hamkāri—"Help and Cooperation")
Engagements War in Afghanistan
Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.
Command Sergeant Major Thomas R. Capel

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan that was established by the United Nations Security Council in December 2001 by Resolution 1386,[1] as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement.[2] Its main purpose is to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and assist Afghanistan in rebuilding key government institutions but is also engaged in the 2001-present war with insurgent groups.

ISAF was initially charged with securing Kabul and surrounding areas from the Taliban, al Qaeda and factional warlords, so as to allow for the establishment of the Afghan Transitional Administration headed by Hamid Karzai.[3] In October 2003, the UN Security Council authorized the expansion of the ISAF mission throughout Afghanistan,[4] and ISAF subsequently expanded the mission in four main stages over the whole of the country.[5] From 2006 to 2011, ISAF had been involved in increasingly more intensive combat operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Troop contributors include from the United States, United Kingdom, NATO member states and a number of other countries. The intensity of the combat faced by contributing nations varies greatly, with the United States sustaining the largest numbers of casualties in intensive combat operations, but with other contributors especially the United Kingdom and Denmark sustaining relatively higher rates of casualties. As of early 2010, there were at least 700 military bases inside Afghanistan. About 400 of these were used by American‑led NATO forces and 300 by ANSF.[6]


ISAF's military terminal at Kabul International Airport in September 2010.

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 an extra ten thousand soldiers. The responsibility for security throughout the whole of Afghanistan was to be given to the newly reconstituted Afghan armed forces. However, on 13 October 2003, the Security Council voted unanimously to expand the ISAF mission beyond Kabul in Resolution 1510. Shortly thereafter, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said that Canadian soldiers (nearly half of 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 2005 Afghan parliamentary election, the Canadian base Camp Julien at Kabul closed, and remaining Canadian assets 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 9.

ISAF is mandated by the UN Security Council Resolutions 1386, 1413, 1444, 1510, 1563, 1623, - | / | S/RES/1659 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S/RES/1659 }} {{{date}}}., - | / | S/RES/1707 }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S/RES/1707 }} {{{date}}}., - | / | S/RES/1776(2007) }} {{#strreplace: - | / | S/RES/1776(2007) }} {{{date}}}. (with an abstention from Russia due to the lack of clarity in the wording pertaining to ISAF's maritime interception component, which has not appeared in any of the Security Council's previous resolutions.[7]) and Resolution 1917 (2010). The last of these extended the mandate of ISAF to 23 March 2011. The mandates the different governments give to their forces differ from country to country.[citation needed] Some governments wish to take a full part in counter-insurgency operations;[citation needed] some are in Afghanistan for NATO alliance reasons;[citation needed] some are in the country partially because they wish to maintain their relationship with the United States,[citation needed] and possibly, some are there for domestic political reasons.[citation needed] This means that ISAF suffers from a certain lack of united aims.[citation needed]


Geographic depiction of the four ISAF stages (January 2009).

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 serves as the operational control center of the mission.

ISAF command originally rotated among different nations on a 6‑month basis. However, there was tremendous difficulty securing new lead nations. To solve the problem, command was turned over indefinitely to NATO on 11 August 2003. This marked NATO's first deployment outside Europe or North America.

  • Eighteen countries were contributing to the force in February 2002. It was expected to grow to 5,000 soldiers.[8]
  • In February 2002 South Korea sent a medical contingent of 99 soldiers.
  • In June 2002: Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu of Turkey took command. During this period, Turkish troops increased from about 100 to 1,300.
  • Between February and July 2002, Portugal sent a sanitary team and an air team to ISAF.
  • In November 2002, ISAF was consisting of 4,650 troops from over 20 countries and was led by Turkey. Around 1,200 German troops were serving in the force alongside 250 Dutch soldiers operating as part of a German-led battalion.
  • On 10 February 2003 Lieutenant General Norbert van Heyst, on behalf of Germany and the Netherlands took command of ISAF. His Deputy was Brigadier General Bertholee of the Netherlands. The mission HQ was formed from HQ I. German/Dutch Corps (1GNC), including staff from the UK, Italy, Turkey, and Norway amongst 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 servicemember meets a defined set of tour length requirements.
  • On 7 June 2003 in Kabul, 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% of ISAF.
  • A study by Care International in the summer of 2003 reported that Kosovo had one peacekeeper to 48 people, East Timor one for every 86, while Afghanistan has just one for every 5,380 people.

Stage 1: to the north – completed October 2004

  • On 11 August 2003, NATO took command of ISAF. ISAF consisted of 5,000 troops from more than 30 countries. About 90% of the force were contributed by NATO nations. 1,950 were Canadian, by far the largest single contingent. About 2,000 German troops were involved. Romania had about 400 troops at the time.
  • The first ISAF rotation under the command of NATO was led by Lieutenant General Goetz Gliemeroth, Germany, with Canadian Army Major General Andrew Leslie as his deputy. Canada had been originally slated to take over command of ISAF on 11 August.
  • 13 October 2003: Resolution 1510 passed by the UN opened the way to a wider role for ISAF to support the Government of Afghanistan beyond Kabul.
  • In December 2003, the North Atlantic Council authorised the Supreme Allied Commander, General James Jones, to initiate the expansion of ISAF by taking over command of the German-led PRT in Kunduz. The other eight PRTs operating in Afghanistan in 2003 remained under the command of Operation Enduring Freedom, the continuing U.S.‑led military operation in Afghanistan. On 31 December 2003, the military component of the Kunduz PRT was placed under ISAF command as a pilot project and first step in the expansion of the mission. Six months later, on 28 June 2004, at the Summit meeting of the NATO Heads of State and Government in Istanbul, NATO announced that it would establish four other provincial reconstruction teams in the north of the country: in Mazar-i-Sharif, Meymana, Feyzabad and Baghlan. After the completion of Stage 1 the ISAF's area of operations then covered some 3,600 square kilometres in the north and the mission was able to influence security in nine Northern provinces of the country.[9]
  • As late as November 2003, the entire ISAF force had three helicopters.
  • On 9 February 2004 Lieutenant General Rick Hillier of Canada took command, with Major General Werner Korte of Germany as deputy. During this timeframe, Canada was the largest contributor to the ISAF force, contributing 2,000 troops.
  • In May 2004, Turkey sent three helicopters and 56 flight and maintenance personnel to work in ISAF.
  • In July 2004, Portugal sent 24 soldiers and one C‑130 Hercules cargo plane to assist ISAF.
  • On 7 August 2004: General Jean-Louis Py, commander of Eurocorps took command of ISAF. Eurocorps contributors deploying to Afghanistan included France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. Canada reduced its forces to about 800 personnel.
  • In September 2004, a Spanish battalion (about 800 personnel) arrived to provide the ISAF Quick Reaction Force, and an Italian Army battalion (up to 1,000 troops) arrived to provide the in‑theatre Operational Reserve Force. With a force of 100, Georgia became the first Commonwealth of Independent States country to send an operational force to Afghanistan.
  • Stage 1 (North) was completed at October 2004 under the Regional Command of Germany.

Stage 2: to the west – completed September 2005

  • In February 2005: General Ethem Erdagi of Turkey took command
  • On 10 February 2005, NATO announced that ISAF would be further expanded, into the west of Afghanistan. This process began on 31 May 2006, when ISAF took on command of two additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams, in the provinces of Herat and Farah and of a Forward Support Base (a logistic base) in Herat. At the beginning of September, two further ISAF-led PRTs in the west became operational, one in Chaghcharan, capital of Ghor province, and one in Qala-e-Naw, capital of Baghdis province, completing ISAF's expansion into the west. The extended ISAF mission led a total of nine PRTs, in the north and the west, providing security assistance in 50% of Afghanistan's territory.
  • As the area of responsibility was increased, ISAF also took command of an increasing number of PRTs, with the aim of improving security and facilitating reconstruction outside the capital. The first nine PRTs (and lead nations) were based at Baghlan (Netherlands, then Hungary at October 2006), Chaghcharan (Lithuania), Farah (U.S.), Fayzabad (Germany), Herat (Italy), Kunduz (Germany), Mazar-i-Sharif (UK, then Denmark/Sweden, now Sweden and Finland), Maymana (UK, then Norway), Qala‑e Naw (Spain).
  • In May 2005 ISAF Stage  2 took place, doubling the size of the territory ISAF was responsible for. The new area was the former US Regional Command West consisting of Badghis, Farah, Ghor, and Herat Provinces.
  • 5 August 2005: Italian General Mauro del Vecchio assumed command of ISAF. During 2005 Italy commanded four multinational military operations: in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania.
  • September 2005: ISAF Stage 2 was completed under the Regional Command of Italy. In September 2005, the Alliance also temporarily deployed 2,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to support the 18 September provincial and parliamentary elections.[9]
  • On 27 January 2006, it was announced in the British Parliament that ISAF would replace U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom troops in Helmand Province. The British 16th Air Assault Brigade became the core of the force in Helmand Province.
  • In February 2006, the Netherlands decided to expand the troop contribution with an extra 1,400 soldiers.[10]
  • On 22 May 2006, a British Army WAH-64 Apache gunship fired a Hellfire missile to destroy a French armored jeep that had been disabled during a firefight with Taliban forces in North Helmand province the previous day, as it was decided that attempting to recover the vehicle would have been too dangerous. This is the first time UK Apaches have opened fire in a hostile theatre and this would be, in a fashion, the WAH-64's first "combat kill".

Stage 3: to the south – completed July 2006

  • On 8 December 2005, meeting at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the Allied Foreign Ministers endorsed a plan that paved the way for an expanded ISAF role and presence in Afghanistan. The first element of this plan was the expansion of ISAF to the south in 2006, also known as Stage 3. At the completion of this stage the ISAF assumed command of the southern region of Afghanistan from U.S.‑led Coalition forces, expanding its area of operations to cover an additional six provinces – Day Kundi, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul – and taking on command of four additional PRTs. The expanded ISAF led a total of 13 PRTs in the north, west and south, covering some three-quarters of Afghanistan's territory. The number of ISAF forces in the country also increased significantly, from about 10,000 prior to the expansion to about 20,000 after.[9]
  • 4 May 2006: United Kingdom General David Richards assumed command of the ISAF IX force in Afghanistan. The mission is led by the Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.
  • 31 July 2006, Stage 3 was completed: The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force also assumed command in six provinces of the south. Regional Command South was established at Kandahar. Led by Canada, 8,000 soldiers are now positioned there.
  • With the Taliban regrouping, especially in its birthplace of Kandahar province bordering Pakistan, NATO launched its biggest offensive against the guerrillas at the weekend of 2 and 3 September 2006 (Operation Medusa). NATO says it has killed more than 250 Taliban fighters, but the Taliban says NATO casualty estimates are exaggerated.
  • On 7 September 2006, a British soldier was killed and six wounded when their patrol strayed into an unmarked minefield in Helmand, the major drug-growing province west of Kandahar.
  • On 28 September 2006, the North Atlantic Council gave final authorization for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (NATO-ISAF) to expand its area of operations to 14 additional provinces in the east of Afghanistan, boosting NATO's presence and role in the country. With this further expansion, NATO-ISAF will assist the Government of Afghanistan in providing security throughout the whole of the country.[11] The expansion will see the NATO-ISAF controlling 32,000 troops from 37 countries, although the alliance is already struggling to find extra troops to hold off a spiraling Taliban-led insurgency in the volatile south.

Stage 4: ISAF takes responsibility for entire country – completed October 2006

  • On 5 October 2006, ISAF implemented the final stage of its expansion, by taking on command of the international military forces in eastern Afghanistan from the U.S.‑led Coalition. In addition to expanding the Alliance's area of operations, the revised operational plan also paved the way for a greater ISAF role in the country. This includes the deployment of ISAF OMLTs to Afghan National Army units at various levels of command.[9]
  • 10,000 more coalition troops moved under NATO command. 31,000 ISAF troops were now in Afghanistan. 8,000 U.S. troops continued training and counterterrorism separately.
  • 21 October 2006: The Canadian government grew increasingly frustrated over the unwillingness of mainly European NATO members to deploy troops to help fight mounting Taliban resistance in the south.[citation needed]

ISAF Post Stage 4: October 2006 to present

File:Anaconda Strategy vs Insurgents 101020.jpg

Anaconda Strategy vs the insurgents as of 2010-10-20.

  • November 2006: A study by the Joint Co-ordinating and Monitoring Board, made up of the Afghan government, its key foreign backers and the UN, suggested that more than 3,700 people died from January to November 2006. The majority of the dead appear to be insurgents, but it is estimated that 1,000 civilians have also been killed this year, along with members of the Afghan National Army, ISAF, and U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom forces.[12]
  • 28–29 November 2006: NATO summit at Riga, Latvia. Combat curbs were the most contentious issue at the two-day summit in Latvia, following tension over the reluctance of France, Germany, Spain, and Italy to send their troops to southern Afghanistan. Countries agreeing to ease the restrictions on deployment against the Taliban insurgency include the Dutch, Romanians and smaller nations such as Slovenia and Luxembourg. France, Germany, Spain, and Italy have said they will now send help to trouble zones outside their areas, but only in emergencies. The summit also saw several countries offer additional troops and training teams. France agreed to send more helicopters and aircraft. NATO commanders said they believe they can move an extra 2,500 troops around the country now some smaller members have relaxed their mission conditions.[13]
  • 15 December 2006: ISAF starts a new offensive, Operation Baaz Tsuka (Falcon's Summit), against the Taliban in the Panjaway Valley in Kandahar province.
  • 4 February: U.S. General Dan K. McNeill replaced British General David Richards as commander of ISAF. He was expected to place a heavier emphasis on fighting than peace deals, analysts said at the time.[14] Meanwhile observers and commanders are expecting a new Taliban "spring offensive", and NATO commanders are asking for more troops.
  • 6 March 2007: NATO-ISAF launched Operation Achilles, an offensive to bring security to northern Helmand and set the conditions for meaningful development that will fundamentally improve the quality of life for Afghans in the area. The operation will eventually involve more than 4,500 NATO troops and nearly 1,000 Afghan soldiers in Helmand province, according to the alliance. It focuses on improving security in areas where Taliban extremists, narco-traffickers and other elements are trying to destabilize the Government of Afghanistan and to intend to empower village elders. The overarching purpose is to assist the government to improve its ability to begin reconstruction and economic development in the area. Strategically, the goal is also to enable the government to begin the Kajaki hydro-energy project.[15]
  • On 2 June 2008, General David D. McKiernan, U.S. Army, assumed command of ISAF.
  • As of January 2014 its troops number around 55,100.[16] There are troops from 26 NATO, 10 partner and 2 non-NATO / non-partner countries,[16]
  • 6–7 February 2009: UK forces mount Operation Diesel raid in Helmand province.
  • 27 April and 19 May 2009: ISAF launched Operations Zafar and Zafar 2 in the Helmand Province. Operation Zafar lasted one week and Operation Zafar 2 lasted four days. Both operations were preparing for Operation Panther's Claw.
  • 29 May 2009: ISAF launched Operation Mar Lewe around the village of Yatimchay, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south of Musa Qaleh, Helmand Province. Operation Mar Lewe lasted three-days. "Mar Lewe" is Pashto for "snake wolf".
File:ISAF SOF 90-Day Accumulated effect (23 Sep 10).jpg

SOF 90‑Day Accumulated effect (23 Sep 10).

  • 15 June 2009: General Stanley A. McChrystal, U.S. Army, assumed command of NATO forces.
  • 19 June 2009: ISAF launched Operation Panther's Claw to secure control of various canal and river crossings in Helmand Province and to establish a lasting ISAF presence in an area described by Lt. Col. Richardson as "one of the main Taliban strongholds" ahead of the 2009 Afghan presidential election.
  • 2 July 2009: ISAF launched Operation Strike of the Sword or Operation Khanjar in Helmand Province. This operation is the largest U.S. Marine offensive since the battle of Fallujah, Iraq – Operation Phantom Fury in 2004.
  • 23 June 2010: Lieutenant General Sir Nick Parker, British Army, former deputy commander of ISAF, assumes interim command after the resignation of General McChrystal.
  • 4 July 2010: General David Petraeus, U.S. Army, assumed command of NATO forces; Petraeus was formally approved by the US Senate to replace McChrystal on 30 June 2010.[17]

Colombia had planned to deploy around 100 soldiers in Spring 2009.[18][19] These forces were expected to be demining experts.[20][21] General Freddy Padilla de Leon announced to CBS that operators of Colombia's Special Forces Brigade were scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in either August or September 2009.[22] However, the Colombians are not listed as part of the force as of June 2011.

Three NATO states have announced withdrawal plans: Canada in 2011,[23] Poland in 2012,[24] and the United Kingdom in 2015.[25] The United States said it would end combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. This would not involve a total withdrawal, but sizable advisory forces may remain to train and mentor Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Security and reconstruction

Since 2006 the insurgency of the Taliban has been intensifying, especially in the southern Pashtun parts of the country, areas that were the Taliban's original power base in the mid‑1990s. 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 have come under almost daily attack. British commanders said the fighting for them was the fiercest since the Korean War, fifty years ago. BBC reporter Alistair Leithead, embedded with the British forces, called it in an article "Deployed to Afghanistan's hell".[26]

Because of the security situation in the south, ISAF commanders have asked member countries to send more troops. On 19 October, for example, the Dutch government decided to send more troops, because of the increasing attacks by suspected Taliban on their Task Force Uruzgan, which makes it very difficult to complete the reconstruction work they came to accomplish.

Derogatory alternative acronyms for the ISAF were created by critics, including "I Saw Americans Fighting",[27] "I Suck at Fighting", and "In Sandals and Flip Flops".[28]

ISAF and the illegal opium economy

Opium production levels for 2005–2007

Regional security risks of opium poppy cultivation in 2007–2008.

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 counternarcotics policy. For example, Dutch soldiers have 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 can no longer feed their families, causing anger, frustration, and social protest. Thus, being associated with this counterproductive drug policy, ISAF soldiers on the ground find it difficult to gain the support of the local population.[29]

Though problematic for NATO, this indirect role has allowed NATO to avoid the opposition of the local population who depend 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.[30] In order to appease France, Italy, and Germany, the deal involved the participation in an anti-drugs campaign only of willing NATO member countries, was to be temporary, and was to involve cooperation of the Afghans.[30]

On 10 October 2008, during a news conference, after an informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Budapest, Hungary, NATO Spokesman James Appathurai said:[31]

...with regard to counternarcotics, based on the request of the Afghan government, consistent with the appropriate UN 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.

Military and civilian casualties

ISAF military casualties, and the civilian casualties caused by the war and Coalition/ISAF friendly fire, have become a major political issue, both in Afghanistan and in the troop contributing nations. Increasing civilian casualties threaten the stability of President Hamid Karzai's government. Consequently, effective 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.[32]

ISAF command structure as of 2011

File:Afghanistan ISAF Sept2008.jpg

ISAF troops under NATO command (April 2009).

Throughout the four different regional stages of ISAF the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) began growing. The expansion of ISAF, during October 2006, to all provinces of the country brought the total number of PRTs to twenty-four (24). The teams are led by different members of ISAF mission. PRT at Wardak was installed in November 2006, which is led by Turkey. This brought the number to 25. The overall NATO-ISAF mission is led by the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, at Brunssum, Netherlands.[33]

The headquarters of ISAF is located in Kabul. As of October 2010, there were 6 Regional Commands, each with subordinate Task Forces and Provincial Reconstruction Teams:

The lower strength numbers of the ISAF forces are as of 6 October 2008.[34] The numbers also reflect the situation in the country. The north and west are relatively calm, while ISAF and Afghan forces in the south and east are almost under daily attack.

Kabul; Clock wise, Michael Mullen, David Petraeus, James Mattis, John Allen, Marvin L. Hill and German Army Gen. Wolf Langheld inside the ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

The new ISAF structure from August 2009

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, Zahir Azimi, with German Army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz in 2010.

Camp Marmal in Mazar-i-Sharif, headquarters of Regional Command North.

Meeting of Italian and U.S. commanders at Regional Command West headquarters in Herat.

Tarin Kowt in Urozgan Province

Inside the Air traffic control tower at Bagram Airfield in Parwan Province

Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, part of Regional Command Southwest

  • HQ ISAF at Kabul (Composite)
    • Commander ISAF directs three subordinate formations after a 2009 reorganisation. The Intermediate Joint Command (sometimes reported as ISAF Joint Command)[35] has been established to run the tactical battle, on the lines of Multi-National Corps Iraq. Lieutenant General James L. Terry commands the IJC. V Corps is being deployed from Germany to provide the IJC headquarters. Commander ISAF also supervises the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and Special Operations Forces.
  • Regional Command Capital (Kabul) (approx. strength: 5,420)
    • The command of this region is rotating among Turkey, France, and Italy. At the moment, November 2009, Turkey is the leading nation in this region. The headquarters is in Kabul. On 31 October 2009 the Turkish Brigadier General Levent ÇOLAK took over command from a French Brigadier General. Most of the French forces in Afghanistan are in RC‑C. Strength in 2010 approximately 6,150, including three battalions in Kabul. Nearly all of the more than forty contributors have troops deployed to Kabul. The city has been under joint Afghan/coalition control since 2002 but came repeatedly under attacks of insurgent fighters.
    • Kabul International Airport KAIA (Belgium, Hungary, Greece, Hungary as of December 2010)
      • As of October 2009, the Bulgarian Infantry Company, part of the Bulgarian contingent (Herat, Kandahar) provides the security of the outer perimeter of KAIA, is so‑called Ground Defence Area – GDA. The Bulgarian company is under the command of the Belgium Force Protenction Group.
  • Regional Command North (approx. 4,400)
    • HQ RC(N), Camp Marmal, HQ Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province
    • RC‑N is led by Germany. Since 30 November 2009 the German Brigadier General Frank Leidenberger took over command of RC‑North. Strength: appx. 5,750, to be raised. Other forces in RC‑N include units from the United States of America, Croatia, Norway, Belgium, Sweden, and Hungary et al. The situation in RC‑N as deteriorated. Hotspots include Kunduz in northern Afghanistan and Faryab in the northwest.
    • Manoeuvre battalions, including QRF
    • Task Force 47 (special forces, see de:Task Force 47)
    • PRT MAZAR-I-SHARIF in Balkh province (Sweden and Finland)
    • PRT FEYZABAD (DEU) in Badakhshan province (Germany)
    • PRT KONDUZ in Kunduz province (Germany)
    • PRT POL-E KHOMRI in Baghlan Province (Hungary)
    • PRT Meymaneh in Faryab Province (Norway)
  • Regional Command West (approx. 2,980)
    • HQ RC(W) in HERAT, Herat province (Italy)
    • Commander as of May 2010 Brig.Gen. Claudio Verto (ITA).[36] Strength: appx 4,440
    • Forward Support Base HERAT (Spain)
    • Manoeuvre elements, Task Force 45 (special forces task force see it:Task Force 45)
    • PRT HERAT in Herat province (Italy)
    • Shindand Air Base, Herat province
    • PRT FARAH in Farah province (USA)
    • PRT QALA-E-NOW in Badghis province (Spain)
    • PRT CHAGHCHARAN in Ghor province (Lithuania)
  • Regional Command South (approx. 35,000)
    • HQ RC(S) at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar Province
    • Forward Support Base Kandahar (Multinational)
    • Combined Task Force Fury
    • Combined Task Force Lancer
    • Combined Task Force 4-2 (2012–13)
    • Combined Team Uruzgan
    • Kandahar PRT in Kandahar City (Canada)[37]
    • Uruzgan PRT in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province (United States, Australia)[38]
    • Zabul PRT in Qalat, Zabul Province (USA, Romania)[39]
    • Regional Command South also includes the provinces of Nimruz and Daykundi
  • Regional Command East (HQ Bagram Airfield) (approx. 18,800)
    • Apart from additional manoeuvre elements, RC‑E heads 13 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in the eastern and central provinces of Afghanistan. The headquarters is located in Bagram. Other forces in RC‑E include units from France, Turkey, New Zealand, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The province has been a staging ground for costly engagements. Hotspots include Kapisa, Nurestan, and Konar. The commander also directs the U.S. national force Combined Joint Task Force 1. Lead nation and main contributor is the United States. Strength: appx. 23,950, to be raised.
    • Task Force White Eagle (Polish forces' brigade in Ghazni Province)
    • Task Force 49 (ISAF SOF) in Ghazni province (Poland)
    • Task Force 50 (ISAF SOF) in Ghazni province, Paktika province (Poland)
    • Forward Support Base BAGRAM (USA)
    • PRT LOGAR in Logar province (Czech Republic)
    • PRT SHARANA in Paktika province (USA)
    • PRT KHOST in Khost province (USA)
    • PRT METHER LAM in Laghman province (USA)
    • New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team, Bamiyan, Bamiyan Province
    • PRT PANJSHIR in Panjshir province (USA)
    • PRT JALALABAD in Nangarhar province (USA)
    • PRT GHAZNI in Ghazni province (Poland, USA)
    • PRT ASADABAD in Kunar Province (USA)
    • PRT PARWAN (Republic Of Korea)
    • PRT NURISTAN in Parun (USA)
    • PRT WARDAK in Maidan Shar (Turkey)
    • PRT GARDEZ in Paktia province (USA)
  • Regional Command Southwest (HQ Camp Leatherneck) (approx. 27,000)
    • Regional Command Southwest was established in July 2010.[40] It is responsible for security in the Helmand and Nimroz provinces in southwestern Afghanistan. Along with the Afghan government and security forces, seven other nations contribute to RC (SW) to bring security to the region. Those nations include the United States, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Georgia, The Kingdom of Denmark, The Kingdom of Bahrain, and the Republic of Estonia. Marine Major General Richard P. Mills, the commander of RC (SW), made history by being the first U.S. Marine to command a NATO regional command in combat.[41]
    • Task Force Helmand (U.K. forces in central and northeast Helmand Province)
    • Task Force Leatherneck (U.S. Marines in northern, southern, and western Helmand Province)[42]
    • Helmand PRT in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province (UK, Denmark, Estonia)[43]

List of Commanders

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.[44]

Name Photo Term began Term ended Notes
1. Lt Gen John C. McColl, BA 10 January 2002 20 June 2002
2. Lt Gen Hilmi Akin Zorlu, TKK 20 June 2002 10 February 2003
3. Lt Gen Norbert van Heyst, DH 10 February 2003 11 August 2003
4. Lt Gen Götz Gliemeroth, DH 11 August 2003 9 February 2004
5. Lt Gen Rick J. Hillier, CA 9 February 2004 9 August 2004
6. Lt Gen Jean-Louis Py, AT 9 August 2004 13 February 2005
7. Lt Gen Ethem Erdağı, TKK 13 February 2005 5 August 2005 Former commander of 3rd Corps (Turkey)
8. Gen Mauro del Vecchio, EI 5 August 2005 4 May 2006
9. Gen Sir David J. Richards, BA Gen. Sir David Richards at NATO Summit in Chicago May 20, 2012.jpg 4 May 2006 4 February 2007
10. Gen Dan K. McNeill, USA DanMcNeill.jpg 4 February 2007 3 June 2008
11. Gen David D. McKiernan, USA DavidMckiernan.jpg 3 June 2008 15 June 2009
12. Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, USA StanleyMcChrystal.jpg 15 June 2009 23 June 2010 General McChrystal was removed from command due to conduct that could undermine civilian control of the military.[45]
13. Gen David H. Petraeus, USA General David Petraeus.jpg 4 July 2010 18 July 2011
14. Gen John R. Allen, USMC John Allen ISAF.jpg 18 July 2011 10 February 2013 Near the end of his term, General Allen became embroiled in an inappropriate communication investigation concerning his correspondences with Jill Kelley.[46]
15. Gen Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., USMC 50px 10 February 2013 Present

Current Commander [47]

Contributing nations

Convoy of U.S. forces passing by in Kapisa Province.

All NATO members have contributed troops to the ISAF, as well as some other partner states of the NATO. The numbers are based in part from NATO; when more recent numbers are available they are given. As of July 2011, troop numbers are slowly decreasing due to the security handover to Afghan government forces.

NATO nations

Troop figures are as of the latest ISAF/NATO Placemat from 24 June 2013.[48]

  •  Albania – 216  On 28 July 2010, Albania sent its first combat contingent of 44 specialised soldiers to engage in direct combat in the province of Kandahar alongside US and British special forces. It was part of the Special Operations Battalion, or BOS. The contingent was given the name "Eagle 1". On 25 January 2011, the second combat mission consisting of 45 soldiers named "Eagle 2" was sent to Afghanistan following the return of the "Eagle 1" mission. Soon the mission was replaced by "Eagle 3". As of 16 January 2011, Albania has sent its fourth mission codenamed "Eagle 4" to engage in combat in Kandahar. However, the main contingent is composed of a company under Italian command in the province of Herat. Albania also has a squad of soldiers under Turkish command in Kabul and a contribution to a joint medical team with the Czech contribution.[48] The latest contingent is composed of 222 soldiers of the 8th Regiment.[49] On 20 February 2012, one Albanian Commando was killed in Kandahar during a firefight. The news was confirmed by the Ministry of Defense of Albania, according to which, the soldier was Feti Vogli, Captain of the First Special Force. Alexander Peci, an ammunition specialist, was severely wounded. According to a press release, the Albanian Commandos were attacked at 15:05 by a group of Afghan police, while they were accompanying the personnel of an USAID mission in Robot village, Kandahar. They were shot with automatic weapons and a light machine gun, which also left a wounded soldier from the allied countries. The two Albanian soldiers received serious wounds and passed away in a Kandahar hospital, while their team arrested 11 Afghan police agents, responsible for the attack.[50]
  •  Belgium – 182  The mission is named BELU ISAF 21. Their main task is to provide security at Kabul International Airport, while detachments (KUNDUZ 16) assist in the northern PRTs of Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif. In September 2008, OGF 4 started: four F‑16s with about 140 support personnel deployed. They operate from Kandahar Airport.[51] The Belgian Air Force operated close together with the Dutch F-16 fighter jets already deployed there.[52]

A Bulgarian land forces up-armored M1114 patrol in Kabul, July 2009

  •  Bulgaria – 383  In December 2009, Bulgarian Minister of Defence Nikolay Mladenov said that the Bulgarian contingent in Afghanistan, which was divided between two military bases in Kabul and Kandahar with a total of 602 soldiers, would be consolidated in Kandahar and that it could add up to 100 troops in Afghanistan in 2010.[53] In July 2011, Bulgaria sent 165 more soldiers bringing the total number of contributing forces to 767.[54] The government has declared that it will withdraw its troops in 2014.[55]

Soldiers from the Canadian Grenadier Guards in Kandahar Province.

  •  Canada – 950, mostly located in Kabul. Canadian Forces had been actively engaged in fighting the Taliban in the dangerous South and have suffered a high proportion of the allied casualties. The Canadian Forces are officially there to help train Afghan National Army and police, facilitate reconstruction, and provide security, but in 2006, with the situation in Kandahar Province turned increasingly violent, the Canadian Forces participated in several operations and battles since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan in 2001. The Royal Canadian Air Force had a major presence in Afghanistan, including three CC‑130 Hercules cargo planes, two CP‑140 surveillance planes,[56] six CH‑147 Chinook transport helicopters, six Mil Mi‑8 leased for one year from Skylink Aviation, eight CH‑146 Griffon utility helicopters and three CU‑170 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The Canadian Army have increased their presence with main battle tanks, some ten Leopard C2 and twenty Leopard 2A6M CAN, approximately one hundred LAV III armoured vehicles and currently use six 155 mm M777 howitzers in Afghanistan. Canada had suffered 158 casualties in Afghanistan. As of 2011, all Canadian combat forces withdrew from Kandahar and relocated the bulk of their forces in Kabul, with detachments in RC North and RC West.[citation needed]
  •  Croatia – 190  Croatian troops are involved in three locations. The Croatian parliament voted on extra troop numbers on 7 December with all parties supporting a troop increase, although parliament did recognize that additional increases in troop numbers might be possible during 2011 and 2012 to help train local army and police units.[57][58][59]
  •  Czech Republic – 188  Czech troops are involved in four locations. Czech troops numbered as high as 4,000 in 2011 and 3,400 in 2012, when withdrawal started. The largest unit was deployed as PRT Logar composed of 192 troops and 12 civilians in Logar Province, in place since 19 March 2008. Four BMP‑2 IFVs are part of PRT Logar, however they are only garding the Shank Base due to their weak IED protection. 4 Pandur II are also part of the PRT Logar, which are being actively used in operations. Iveco LMV is the most commonly used vehicle by the Czech Armed Forces allover Afghanistan. The Field Hospital at Kabul International Airport was deployed in March 2007 and consists of 81 medical and 30 NBC protection personnel. Eight helicopter pilots and technicians are part of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT). Also, four weather forecast specialists and two air traffic controllers are part of the Czech contingent deployed to Kabul International Airport. A third unit was sent to Afghanistan at the end of April 2007, and involved 350 members of the Czech Military Police Special Operations Group, who were attached to British forces in the Southern Helmand province. A fourth unit was deployed in July 2008 and was composed of 63 troops who were in charge of force protection at Dutch FOB Hadrain in Uruzgan Province. The Czechs also donated 6 Mi‑17 and 6 Mi‑24 helicopters to the Afghan National Army Air corps, flew 3 Mi‑17 helicopters in Pakitika Province and announced to deploy one C‑295 in 2011. Five Czech soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.[60]
  •  Denmark – 522  The major Danish military contribution is a battle group, which is currently operating with British forces in the Green Zone in the central part of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The battle group consists of two mechanized infantry companies, a tank platoon and a flight of light reconnaissance helicopters. The battle group also consists of combat support and support units. In the nearby Kandahar Province, troops from the Royal Danish Air Force take part in manning the Kandahar Airfield Crisis Establishment (KAF CE), which is running the airfield. But Danish troops are also deployed to other parts of Afghanistan. In northern Afghanistan approximately twenty troops are serving in the German-led PRT in Feyzabad. In western Afghanistan ten troops are serving in the Lithuanian led PRT in Chagcharan. There is also a small contribution to ISAF headquarters in Kabul and to the staffing of Kabul International Airport. There is also a RDAF presence with the NATO AWACS contingent in Mazar-i-Sharif. In Helmand Danish troops are involved in the worst fighting their armed forces have undertaken since the Second Schleswig War of 1864. Denmark has lost 43 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2002. There is a Danish SOF Task Force operating in Lashkar Gar mentoring ANSF. A recent survey[61] has determined that Denmark by far has the highest count of casualties relative to population.
  •  Estonia – 163  The majority of Estonian troops have been deployed to PRT Lashkar-Gah in the southern province of Helmand, together with the forces of the United Kingdom and Denmark. 9 Estonian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.

French units on duty with ISAF.

  •  France – 455  French forces deployed in the Surobi District and to the Kapisa Province under the command of the Lafayette Brigade. Six French Dassault Mirage 2000D fighters and two C‑135F refueling aircraft were based at Dushanbe Airport in Dushanbe, Tajikistan but relocated to Kandahar on 26 September 2007; from there they conduct operations in support of ISAF. An assortment of 200 naval, air force, and army special forces personnel were withdrawn from Southern Afghanistan in early 2007, but around 50 remained to train Afghan forces. On 26 February 2008 it was reported that Paris would deploy hundreds of troops to eastern Afghanistan to free up American soldiers, who would then be able to assist Canadian forces in the flashpoint southern province of Kandahar.[62] Shortly afterwards, 700 troops were deployed to reinforce the French activities in Surobi and Kapisa. The deployment marked a significant change in French policy in Afghanistan. The French Prime Minister, François Fillon, later announced that 100 additional troops and Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopters would be sent to the country. According to the French newspaper Libération, Nicolas Sarkozy planned to send an additional several hundred troops. France has decided to send Eurocopter Tiger attack helicopters to Afghanistan in the second quarter of 2009.[63] In April 2010, French president Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out sending additional troops to Afghanistan in the near future. 88 French troops have been killed in Afghanistan.[64] However, in the summer of 2010, 250 reinforcements were announced by the French Chief of the Defense Staff, the admiral Édouard Guillaud.[65] These reinforcements (an additional OMLT) arrived in October 2010, bringing the number of French forces in Afghanistan to 4,000.[66] The remaining troops are to be withdrawn by the end of 2012.[67]

ISAF's spokesperson Brig. Gen. Gunter Katz (right) surveys the grounds at the Afghan Defense University in 2013.

  •  Germany – 4,400  The Bundeswehr is currently the third-largest troop contributor to ISAF. Germany leads Regional Command North based in Mazar-i-Sharif. The task of the German forces is to assist the Afghan government with security and reconstruction in the four northern provinces of Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan and Badakhshan. Germany leads the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the provinces of Kunduz and Badakhshan. The mandate issued by the Bundestag does not allow the Bundeswehr to take part in combat operations against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances. However, German troops together with allied forces of Regional Command North have conducted own combat operations in northern and northeast Afghanistan, inflicting as many as 650 casualties upon insurgents. Germany has agreed to send 850 additional troops in 2010, raising the mandate ceiling to 5,350 troops. 53 German troops and 3 police officers have been killed in Afghanistan.[68] 156 service members have been wounded in action.[69] In the 2006 German troops controversy, 23 German soldiers were accused of posing with human skulls in Afghanistan. Following the Kunduz airstrike on two captured fuel tankers, which killed over 100 civilians, Germany reclassified the Afghanistan deployment in February 2010 as an "armed conflict within the parameters of international law", allowing German forces to act without risk of prosecution under German law.[70][71]
  •  Greece – 3  Some Greek troops were stationed at Kabul International Airport, while others manned various hospitals.[citation needed]
  •  Hungary – 364  The Hungarian infantry unit was situated in Kabul, however, on 1 October 2006, Hungary requisitioned its forces and took over responsibility from the Dutch for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in the town of Pul‑e Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province. Since 1 October 2008, one of the tasks of the Hungarians is to provide security at Kabul International Airport. In 2008 Hungarian special forces deployed to South Afghanistan to special reconnaissance and patrol operations. In 2010 Budapest adds 200 soldiers to the 340 troops it already has in Afghanistan working in reconstruction and training. Six Hungarian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.[72]
  •  Iceland – 3, all stationed at ISAF HQ at Kabul International Airport.[73]

Italian army soldiers in Herat Province.

  •  Italy – 3,304  Italian troops currently lead Regional Command West and the PRT in Herat Province. Although the mandate issued by the Parliament of Italy does not allow Italian forces to take part in the battle against the Taliban insurgency in the south and east of Afghanistan, other than in exceptional circumstances, the former Italian Minister of Defense Ignazio La Russa has officially stated in July 2008 that such combat activities have indeed taken place over the last year in the Farah area.[74] An Italian contingent including 9 helicopters Agusta A129 Mangusta, 2 C‑27 Spartan, 1 C‑130, 3 AB‑212, 3 CH‑47. Additionally, in April 2008, 4 AMX International AMX reconnaissance jets and 3 helicopters AB‑412, with corresponding 250 personnel (also included), were deployed to Kabul in support of ISAF combat operations in the country. In February 2009 the Italian government decided to boost its contingent by 800 to help out with police training and economic development.[75] A thousand more soldiers were sent in Afghanistan in 2010, for 3,800 in total. Italy has suffered 53 casualties in Afghanistan.
  •  Latvia – 144  Latvian troops were divided between Kabul and the PRTs in Mazar-i-Sharif and Meymaneh as of December 2007. A number of special operations forces operate in the restive south. Three Latvian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.[48]
  •  Lithuania – 244  In June 2005, ISAF established in Chaghcharan, the capital of Ghor province, a Lithuanian PRT in which Danish, US and Icelandic troops also serve. A number of special operations forces operate in the restive south. One Lithuanian soldier has been killed in Afghanistan.[76] Lithuanian special forces were sent south to help the British forces in their spring offensive.
  •  Luxembourg – 10  Luxembourg is working together with Belgium in BELU ISAF 13. The Luxembourgian squad is integrated in a Belgian platoon (two NCOs and seven soldiers) and provides one officer to the staff of the Force Protection group at KAIA.
  •  Netherlands – 500  As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Netherlands deployed aircraft as part of the European Participating Air Force (EPAF) in support of ground operations in Afghanistan as well as Dutch naval frigates to police the waters of the Middle East/Indian Ocean. The Netherlands deployed further troops and helicopters to Afghanistan in 2006 as part of a new ISAF security operation in the south of the country.[10] Dutch ground and air forces totaled almost 2,000 personnel during 2006, taking part in combat operations alongside British and Canadian forces as part of NATO's ISAF force in the south. The Netherlands announced in December 2007 that it would begin withdrawing its Dutch Armed Forces troops from Afghanistan, mainly in the province of Uruzgan, in July 2010. Last minute negotiations in February 2010 after a further NATO request did not change this stance,[77] and there was a handover of command to the United States and Australia on 1 August 2010, formally ending the Dutch military mission, though a redeployment task force would remain for the rest of the year to complete the return of vehicles and other equipment to the Netherlands.[78]

Norwegian soldiers in Faryab Province.

  •  Norway – 166  Norwegian ISAF forces are divided between Meymaneh in Faryab province where they lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team and Mazar-i-Sharif, where they operate alongside Swedish forces. Four Royal Norwegian Air Force F‑16s operated from Kabul airport alongside Dutch F‑16s in support of NATO ISAF forces in southern Afghanistan during 2006.[79] Decisions have been made to reinforce the Norwegian contribution with 150 special forces, three Bell 412 helicopters armed with door-mounted machine guns and around 60 personnel from 339 Squadron – code named Norwegian Aeromedical Detachment (NAD) – to be based at Camp Meymaneh for 18 months from 1 April 2008,[80][81] and 50 troops tasked with training Afghan soldiers.[82][83] As of March 2008 the deployment of the special forces unit has not been confirmed due to internal disagreements in the Norwegian cabinet, with the Socialist Left Party opposed to the mission.[citation needed] After the attack on the Serena Hotel on 14 January 2008, the decision was made to send a team of military explosives experts to Kabul.[84] Building new compounds for ANA has been one way the Norwegian ISAF contribution has supported the modernisation and expansion of the Afghan military.[85] Nine Norwegian soldiers have been killed while on duty—7 were killed off the battlefield (IEDs and one suicide bomber).[86][87][88][89][90]

Polish forces in Afghanistan.

  •  Poland – 1,741  Polish brigade-level Task Force White Eagle is responsible for the south-eastern province of Ghazni. The task force is based in 5 different locations around the province: FOB Warrior, COP Qarabagh, FB Giro, FB Four Corners and FOB Ghazni. The Polish contingent operates 70 Rosomak wheeled armoured vehicles and 40 Cougars on loan from the United States. Additionally, 4 Mil Mi‑24 and 4 Mil Mi‑17 are in use. In December 2009, the Polish Ministry of Defence announced that as of April 2010 it would dispatch additional 60 Rosomaks, 5 Mi‑17 and 600 troops. The contingent would also include 400 backup troops based in Poland who could be deployed in Afghanistan at short notice to bring the total number of Polish soldiers operating under ISAF to almost 3,000. In March 2010, the Polish MoND announced that one battalion of the American 101st Airborne Division would be dispatched to Ghazni and would operate under Polish command. Thirty-seven Polish troops have been killed in Afghanistan. Two Polish ISAF SOF units TF‑49 and TF‑50 are responsible for Special Operations in Province Ghazni and partially in Paktika Province.
  •  Portugal – 165  Portuguese participation in operations in Afghanistan began in February 2002. A military health detachment composed of the three branches of the Armed Forces remained in Kabul for 3 months in a British campaign hospital of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). Followed by a C‑130 Detachment who acted from Karachi (Pakistan), between April and July of that year. NATO took over leadership of ISAF in 2003, and in May 2004, Portugal became involved in this new mission with a C‑130 Detachment and supporting staff of the Portuguese Air Force, as meteorologists, firefighters, drivers, based at Kabul International Airport (KAIA). After finishing this mission for 1 year, in August 2005, the Portuguese Air Force took command of KAIA with several of its services (for a period of 3 months), but now without aircraft. Between June and August 2005, the Portuguese Army began the task of Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of the ISAF Command with a light infantry company (alternated 4 Commandos companies and 2 of Paratroopers), and a TACP Detachment of the Air Force. Officers and sergeants of the three branches have served in the ISAF HQ and other regional structures, more or less discreetly. Between late July 2008 and mid-December, a detachment of the Portuguese Air Force, incorporating a C‑130 and support staff in various specialties, like maintenance and force protection, totaling some 40 soldiers, met the new mission from Kabul. In addition to one seriously injured and several light injuries, the Portuguese army have suffered two dead: Commando Sergeant João Paulo Roma Pereira on 18 November 2005 and Paratrooper Soldier Sérgio Miguel Vidal Oliveira Pedrosa on 24 November 2007. The Portuguese forces for 2012 were: a Military Intelligence Cell, an Army Military Advisor Team for Afghan Capital Division HQ, 2 Air Force Advisor Teams, one for Afghan Air Force Academy and the other for Kabul International Airport, one GNR (gendarmerie type police) Advisor Team at National Police Training Center, in Wardak, Army Police and Navy Marines in service with Kabul International Airport Force Protection and a Support Unit for Portuguese forces with a Protection Company (2 Commando Platoons) and a Logistic Platoon (Maintenance, Health and communications).

Romanian soldiers in southern Afghanistan in 2003.

  •  Romania – 1,521  Romanian forces consist of a battalion in Qalat, Zabul Province. Additionally, a special forces squad (39 personnel) operates from Tagab in Kapisa Province, and a training detachment of 47 personnel is in Kabul under the U.S.‑led Operation Enduring Freedom. In January 2010, the Supreme Homeland Defense Council of Romania announced plans to send 600 more troops to Afghanistan, boosting its military presence there to more than 1,600 soldiers. Romania suffered 76 casualties in Afghanistan, including 20 killed in action.[91][92]
  •  Slovakia – 229  In 2007, on request of NATO command, Slovak forces were moved from Kabul to operate in southern Afghanistan. Currently there are 165 guard soldiers providing force protection at Kandahar Airbase. 57 personnel of Multirole engineer company located in Kandahar Airport. Responsible for demining, building and repairing the airport. 53 soldiers of mechanized infantry are holding outpost in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan Province. 15 personnel are in OMLT team, 4 explosives disposal specialists are part of EOD PALADIN‑S Team. 2 personnel are part of reconstruction team in Tarim Kowt. Twelve officers are members of commanding staff in - HQ ISAF IJC, RC-S, KAF a PALADIN. 15 personnel are part of the National Support Element (NSE) in Kandahar Airport. In September 2011, 20 soldiers of 5th Special Forces Regiment were deployed to Afghanistan to help with mentoring and training of Afghan National Police personnel.[93]
  •  Slovenia – 60  Slovenian troops (including two civilians – CIMIC programme) perform OMLT (mentoring an Infantry Battalion in Bala Boluk and joint mentoring with Italian army of a Combat Support Battalion in Herat) and PRT tasks;[94] and also placing some commanding positions in Regional Command West and ISAF HQ.[95]

Visiting politicians of Spain with soldiers of the Spanish army in 2010.

  •  Spain – 863  The collective Spanish military contribution to ISAF is known as ASPFOR. Spanish forces are divided between Herat Province, where they form a quick-reaction company, an instructors team for Afghan National Army training and a Combat Search & Rescue unit; Kabul, and Badghis Province, where they lead PRT Qala-i-Naw.[96] The deployment involves engineers, infantry, a transport helicopters unit, and a logistics component. Spanish soldiers are constrained by caveats. The mandate issued by the Spanish Parliament does not allow Spanish forces neither to engage Taliban insurgents unless being directly attacked first, nor to move into the south and east of Afghanistan. Spain has rejected three times to lead the ISAF when its shift to do so has come.[97]
  •  Turkey – 1,101  Turkey's responsibilities include providing security in Kabul (it currently leads RC Capital), as well as in Wardak Province, where it leads PRT Maidan Shahr. Turkey was once the third largest contingent within the ISAF. Turkey's troops are not engaged in combat operations and Ankara has long resisted pressure from Washington to offer more combat troops. In December 2009, after the US President Obama announced he would deploy 30,000 more U.S. soldiers, and that Washington wants others to follow suit, the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, reacted with the message that Turkey would not contribute additional troops to Afghanistan. "Turkey has already done what it can do by boosting its contingent of soldiers there to 1,750 from around 700 without being asked", said Erdogan, who stressed that Turkey would continue its training of Afghan security forces.[98]

United Kingdom's Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Luke Meldon explains the components of an Afghan Air Force (AAF) C-27 Spartan to five Thunder Lab students.

  •  United Kingdom – 8,065 troops deployed in Helmand Province.[99] The Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps have a major presence in and around the country, including BAE Harrier II GR7 and GR9 attack jets, MQ‑9 Reaper UAVs, C‑130 Hercules cargo planes, CH‑47 Chinook transport helicopters, Nimrod surveillance planes, Westland Lynx utility helicopters and Westland WAH-64 Apache attack helicopters. They are officially there to help train Afghan security forces, facilitate reconstruction, and provide security, but in 2006, the situation in the north of Helmand turned increasingly violent, with British troops involved in fierce firefights against the Taliban and anti-coalition militia, particularly in the towns of Sangin, Musa Qala, Kajaki and Nawzad. According to the BBC, on 30 November 2009 Gordon Brown announced an increase in British troop numbers, which would bring the total to 10,000 personnel (500 extra ground troops, and 500 Special Forces); additionally more modified Merlin helicopters would be deployed. The MoD stated that all the equipment was ready for such a deployment. The deployment would mean British troop levels in the theatre would be the highest since the invasion in 2001.
  • United States68,000, making up over two thirds of the total number of ISAF troops.

Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) nations

Troop figures are as of the latest ISAF/NATO Placemat from 24 June 2013.[48]

  •  Armenia – 126  Armenia sent about 40 troops to serve under German command.[100] Additional 86 troops deployed since summer 2011.
  •  Austria – 3 deployed in Kabul. In 2002, 75 soldiers were temporarily deployed in Kabul and in the year 2005 a contingent of 100 soldiers served in Afghanistan.[101]
  •  Azerbaijan – 127
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina – 79
  •  Finland – 126 stationed in four provinces around Mazar-i-Sharif, as all of Finnish troops serve in the PRT Mazar-i-Sharif since early 2009. Two Finnish soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.[102]

U.S. President Barack Obama visiting wounded Georgian LTC Alexandre Tugushi.

  •  Georgia – 1,561  Predominantly tasked with peacekeeping and counterinsurgency operations in the volatile Helmand province, Georgia is the largest non-NATO, as well as largest per-capita, contributor to the ISAF. Since 2010 the country has lost 22 soldiers in Afghanistan[103] and more than 100 were wounded.[104][105] The first Georgian fatality occurred on 5 September 2010, when 28 years old Lieutenant Mukhran Shukvani was killed in an sniper attack and Corporal Alexandre Gitolendia was seriously wounded.[106] The most recent deaths occurred on 7 June 2013, when a suicide attack using a truck bomb struck a Georgian base in Helmand Province.[107] Previously, on 13 May 2013, 3 Georgian soldiers, Cpl Alexander Kvitsinadze, Lower Sergeant Zviad Davitadze and Cpl Vladimer Shanava, were killed after a terrorist incursion and an accompanying suicide attack on the 42nd Battalion military base, also in Helmand.[103]
  •  Ireland – 7
  •  Macedonia – 158
  •  Montenegro – 27 stationed at two bases, Pol-e-Khomri and Marmal.
  •  Sweden – 287  Sweden leads the PRT Mazar-i-Sharif. The main force consists of three mechanized companies operating in Mazar-i-Sharif and also includes helicopters for medical evacuation and an OMLT training Afghan soldiers. Six Swedish Soldiers have been killed in action and 20+ wounded since 2001. Over time, the Swedish force consisted of up to 891 troops, 9 CV9040, 20 Patria XA-203, 60+ BAE RG32M and 2 Super Puma Medevac helicopters.
  •  Ukraine – 26  Mostly military doctors serving in the Lithuanian-led PRT Chagcharan, while one officer works at the ISAF HQ in Kabul.

Non-NATO and non-EAPC nations

Troop figures are as of the latest ISAF/NATO Placemat from 24 June 2013.[48]

An Australian Special Operations Task Group patrol in October 2009.

  •  Australia – 1,039  Australia is one of the largest non-NATO contributor to the War in Afghanistan.[108] Called Operation Slipper, the core of the Australian contingent is based in the southern province of Uruzgan. Australia has joint command of Uruzgan Province with the United States (Combined Team Uruzgan). Australia provides the majority of combat forces in Uruzgan. This includes an infantry based Battle Group known as the Mentoring Task Force, which also includes cavalry, engineer, artillery and other supporting assets. The Battle Group's main effort are Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT's), which are embedded with Afghan National Army units at remote Combat Outposts and Forward Operating Bases. The OMLT's conduct almost daily patrolling in the Green Zone with the Afghan National Army, and have been involved in the heaviest combat experienced by regular Australian Defence Force members since the Vietnam War. Australia also contributes a 300 strong Special Operations Task Group, code named Task Force 66, which is manned by the Special Air Service Regiment and 1st & 2nd Commando Regiment. Task Force 66 operates in Uruzgan, Helmand, Zabul and other surrounding provinces, and has had significant success in both capturing and inflicting large numbers of casualties against the Taliban. Australian Army CH‑47D Chinook heavy-lift helicopters serve in Afghanistan as coalition heavy lift transport helicopters, and the Royal Australian Air Force has also committed C‑17 Globemaster and C‑130 Hercules transport aircraft, P‑3 Orion surveillance aircraft, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. 40 Australian soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan, and another 256 have been wounded in action.[109]
  •  El Salvador – 24
  •  Malaysia – 4( 2 in ISAF Headquarters, 2 in Bagram Air Base)
  •  Mongolia – 46  Mongolia sent troops to back the U.S. surge in the country.[110]

New Zealand Army soldier and NZLAV in Afghanistan.

  •  New Zealand – 13  The majority of the New Zealanders were deployed to Bamian Province in March 2003, where they led the respective Provincial Reconstruction Team. Of the remaining personnel, two are instructors and are attached to the UK's Afghan National Army Training Team; and six are liaison staff attached to the ISAF, UNAMA, and U.S.‑led CJTF‑76 headquarters, all three of which are located in Kabul. Additionally, twelve logistics personnel are located at Bagram Airfield,[111] and a small number of New Zealand Police instructors have been involved in training local police forces in Bamian since March 2003.[112] From late 2001 to November 2005, three 6-month rotations of between 40 and 65 New Zealand Special Air Service troops were sent to southern Afghanistan,[113][114] returning in 2009[115][116][117] and remaining there until March 2012.[118] New Zealand withdrew all its personnel from Bamian in April 2013, handing security control of the province back to the Afghan people.
  •  South Korea – 350  The first South Korean contingent had been withdrawn by 14 December 2007 due to the expiration of its mandate, despite American calls for its continued presence. The withdrawal had been one of the pledges made to the Taliban captors of 21 South Korean Christian missionaries in July 2007, in return for the hostages' release. The deployment consisted of 60 medics comprising the 'Dongeui' unit and 150 military engineers forming the 'Dasan' unit at Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul. They had been sent to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Since then, Seoul had only taken the role of providing medical and vocational training by assisting the United States and only two dozen volunteers work inside the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram, north of Kabul. On 30 June 2008, South Korea thus did return as a member of the coalition, operating a small hospital near the airbase in Bagram with military and civilian personnel, according to a statement of the coalition. In December 2009, the South Korean defence ministry announced it would send 350 troops in 2010 to protect South Korean civilian engineers working on reconstruction. These troops would not engage in any fighting except to protect the base of the South Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and escort and protect the activities of the PRT members. The South Korean contingent would be based in Parwan province, just north of Kabul for 30 months from 1 July 2010.[119] This invoked threats from the side of the Taliban. In a statement e‑mailed to international media, Taliban insurgents said Seoul must be ready to face "bad consequences" if the troops were deployed. The South Korean government said it made no promises to stay out of Afghanistan when it withdrew its troops in 2007.[120] South Korea redeployed its troops to Afghanistan since July 2010, and it is the PRT leading nation in Parwan Province. Korea also dispatched 4 UH‑60 Black Hawks, which were under TACON to 3rd Infantry Division (United States).
  •  Tonga – 55
  •  United Arab Emirates – 35  The UAE had 170 soldiers serving in Tarin Kowt province in March 2008 as reported by the BBC.[121]

Withdrawn nations

  •  Bahrain
  •  Jordan – Jordanian troops were deployed in December 2001 to establish a 50‑bed medical facility in Mazar-i-Sharif. According to the US Department of Defense, the hospital provided care for up to 650 local patients a day, and as of February 2006, over 500,000 people had been treated by the Jordanians.[122]
  •  Singapore –   The Singapore Armed Forces has deployed close to 500 personnel to Afghanistan since May 2007 as part of Singapore's contributions to multinational stabilisation and reconstruction efforts there.[123] In May 2007, a five-man medical team was sent to central Afghanistan to set up and run a dental clinic serving local citizens, while training Afghans in dentistry so that they could eventually assume responsibility.[124] Other contributions included a UAV team and a Weapons Locating Radar to provide rocket-launch warnings for Camp Holland.
  •   Switzerland – On 23 February 2008, the Swiss Ministry of Defence announced that its small deployment had concluded two weeks prior. Two officers had worked alongside German troops in the PRT responsible for the northeastern Kunduz province. The stated reason for the withdrawal was the burden placed on other troops for their protection, which had begun to hinder operations. A total of 31 Swiss soldiers were sent to Afghanistan since the beginning of their country's participation in 2003.[125]

Contributions of participating nations

47 nations contributed 97,920 troops as of 24 June 2013.[48]


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 channelled to the participating states or operations concerned, and encouraged the participating states to contribute to such a fund.[126]

Notable soldiers

  • Johan Fulford - While on loan from the Norwegian Air Force, he disobeyed orders as a helicopter pilot to save a life, resulting in being awarded Forsvarets innsatsmedalje)[127][128]

See also


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Further reading

  • Sean M. Maloney, Enduring The Freedom: A Rogue Historian In Afghanistan.. Dulles: Potomac Books, Incorporated, 2005, ISBN 1-57488-953-2
  • Alexander Mattelaer, How Afghanistan has Strengthened NATO. Survival[dead link]

, 2011, 53 (6), pp. 127–140.

External links

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