NATO Expands Into Western Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2005 NATO took command of two more provincial reconstruction teams and a forward support base in Afghanistan May 31, expanding the alliance's security and reconstruction mission in the western part of the country.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force assumed command of provincial reconstruction teams in Herat and Farah and a logistics hub in Herat during a formal transfer-of-authority ceremony at Camp Vianini.
Italy took the lead at PRT Herat, and U.S. forces operating under ISAF command are leading the PRT in Farah, according to Canadian Lt. Col. Karen Tissot van Patot, an ISAF spokeswoman. Spain is heading up the forward support base in Herat, which will include a quick reaction force, a surgical-capable hospital and a medical evacuation capability, and which will be staffed with 375 military members and civilians.
The ceremony also marked the establishment of the first ISAF Regional Command West, under the command of Italian Brig. Gen. Guiseppe Santangelo.
"This expansion will result in significant changes for the ISAF mission," said Turkish Army Lt. Gen. Ethem Erdagi, commander of the International Security Assistance Force since February. "Not only will it expand ISAF's area of operations, but it will establish the first regional area command structure."
Later this summer, two more NATO-led PRTs will become operational, completing the International Security Assistance Force's expansion into western Afghanistan, Tissot van Patot said in a published statement. Lithuania will lead the new PRT in Chagcharan, capital of Ghor province, and Spain will lead the PRT in Qaleh-Now, capital of Baghdis province.
Erdagi called the expansion "ISAF's first critical step into western Afghanistan," which he said "will allow ISAF to more effectively support the upcoming Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council elections."
Once the western expansion is complete, ISAF will provide security assistance in 50 percent of Afghanistan, Tissot van Patot said.
NATO defense ministers agreed to expand the alliance's role in Afghanistan during a February meeting in Nice, France. Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said it "underscores NATO's long-term commitment to helping Afghanistan build a stable, prosperous and democratic future."
The alliance plans to deploy more troops to support Afghanistan's upcoming National Assembly elections scheduled for September, officials said. In addition, NATO is preparing to further expand the International Security Assistance Force into southern Afghanistan later this year.
The alliance took command of the International Security Assistance Force in August 2003, its first mission outside the European-Atlantic area. Currently ISAF numbers about 8,000 troops from both NATO and non-NATO nations.