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NATO Pledges More Troops, Support for Afghanistan

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

SEVILLE, Spain, Feb. 8, 2007 – The entire international community will step up its support for the Afghan people this year, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said here today at the start of the Seville Summit.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (right) meet at the NATO informal defense ministerial in Seville, Spain, on Feb. 8. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

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More forces will be added to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force “to better create the conditions for reconstruction and development to take place,” he said.

“More money will be pledged and spent on reconstruction and development,” he continued. “More personnel and money will be put into training. More equipment will be donated to the Afghan National Army and Police.”

Scheffer said the Afghan people and the entire international community can be proud of Afghanistan’s development since 2001. “Democracy, reconstruction, development, human rights, security -- in all these areas there has been steady progress,” he said.

“Of course, there are challenges,” Scheffer noted. “There are those who would use violence to rob the Afghan people of their future and return the country to the Middle Ages. But we -- the Afghan people and the international community -- we will simply not allow that to happen.”

The international community will do a better job of working together to meet shared goals, he said, adding that NATO officials will work with Afghan leaders to ensure these efforts remain consistent with the country’s needs.

The secretary-general paid tribute to those who serve the 26-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his opening remarks. “The NATO alliance and our men and women are keeping the peace and defending our values from the Balkans to South Asia,” he said. “At out meetings today and tomorrow, we will see how to reinforce the success of our missions now and in the future.”

Scheffer has described the mission in Afghanistan as one of the most challenging tasks NATO has ever taken on, but one that is a critical contribution to international security.”

The International Security Assistance Force was created under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1386 after U.S. forces ousted al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001, according to NATO officials. Since ISAF was formed, troops from all 26 NATO allies, and from Albania, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and Macedonia have been part of the force.

The United Kingdom led the force until Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands jointly took over leadership in February 2003. In August of that year, NATO took responsibility for the force, its first operation beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission is to help the Afghan government maintain security and to support the expansion of the government’s authority throughout the country. The force also helps Afghan forces provide a safe and secure environment conducive to free and fair elections, the spread of the rule of law, and the process of reconstruction, NATO officials said.

NATO initially provided security in and around Kabul, but the mission soon expanded to other parts of the country, as provincial reconstruction teams became the heart of the effort. These small teams of international civilian and military personnel help provide security and help the Afghan government extend its authority further afield. PRT members establish relationships with local authorities, support sector reform activities and help facilitate reconstruction efforts in the provinces.

They also help mediate conflicts, build and supply schools and orphanages, repair roads, and support training and education initiatives. According to NATO officials, PRTs are coordinating hundreds of civil-military projects that are providing for basic human needs, improving quality of life and instilling hope among Afghanistan’s 31 million people.

In December 2003, NATO-led ISAF troops took command of the German-led PRT in Kunduz as a pilot project. By the end of 2004, ISAF had taken command of the military components of five PRTs in the north of Afghanistan, and in mid-2005, NATO took command of four PRTs in the west. The nine PRTs covered about half of Afghanistan’s territory.

In the summer of 2006, ISAF troops expanded their area of operations again by taking control of four PRTS in the south, thus expanding NATO’s reach to three-quarters of Afghanistan. In October 2006, ISAF took command of 11 PRTs in the east that previously had been led by U.S. coalition forces. This final expansion extended NATO’s mission to all of Afghanistan.

At present, more than 30,000 troops from more than 35 nations are responsible for 24 PRTs. ISAF headquarters commands the Kabul Multinational Brigade, which works with the United Nations, Afghan authorities and U.S.-led coalition forces taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom. The brigade plans and conducts patrols and civil-military operations on a daily basis. ISAF conducts about 600 patrols a week, and another 100 or so are conducted jointly with the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army.

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Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Related Sites:
NATO in Afghanistan

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates conducts a news conference following the NATO-Russia Council as part of the NATO defense ministerial conference in Seville, Spain, Feb. 8. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates listens to a simultaneous translation and takes notes during the Mediterranean Dialogue as part of the NATO defense ministerial conference in Seville, Spain, Feb. 8. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby   
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