NATO Assumes Command in Southern Afghanistan
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 31, 2006 NATO's International Security Assistance Force assumed command from coalition forces in southern Afghanistan today, continuing a process that began with the establishment of ISAF in Kabul in August 2003.
The NATO-ISAF forces operating in Regional Command South come from Australia, Britain, Canada, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and the United States. NATO-ISAF forces have been flowing into the south for several months, preparing for the transfer of authority. When fully deployed, the force will total about 8,000 troops in the area, bringing the total ISAF force level to about 18,500.
The southern Afghanistan area of operations includes six provinces - Day Kundi, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul.
“This is one of the most challenging tasks NATO has every taken on, but it is a critical contribution to international security and a demonstration of our commitment to the people of Afghanistan,”NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer said.
ISAF assists the government of Afghanistan and the international community in maintaining security in its area of operations. Until now it had only been operating in the 13 provinces of northern and western Afghanistan. In these regions, ISAF also commands the military components of nine provincial reconstruction teams.
The coalition will maintain responsibility for Afghanistan's eastern region, also known as Regional Command East, which includes the provinces of Paktika, Ghazni, Bamyan, Maydan Wardak, Logar, Khowst, Nangahar, Kabul, Parwan, Laghman, Kunar, Nuristan and Panjsher. Afghan and coalition forces there conduct regular combat patrols to deny insurgents freedom of movement and sanctuary, to defeat the Taliban and related movements, and to prevent the re-emergence of terrorism in Afghanistan, officials said. In addition, a significant coalition effort is under way to expand governance, reconstruction and medical assistance to the eastern provinces.
Since May, ISAF has been led by NATO's Allied Rapid Response Corps, commanded by British Army Lt. Gen. David Richards. "NATO is here for the long-term, for as long as the government and people of Afghanistan require our assistance," Richards said. "We are committed to Afghanistan and its future."
ISAF will bring in more international military forces and will continue the efforts of the coalition to provide security as well as reconstruction projects and humanitarian assistance. ISAF expansion is crucial to the southern region's long-term progress, officials said.
"Today's transfer of authority demonstrates to the Afghan people that there is a strong commitment of the part of the international community to further extend security into the southern province," said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of coalition forces. "This is a seamless transfer of responsibility and authority from the coalition's Operation Enduring Freedom to NATO/ISAF. Having NATO, an organization consisting of 26 partners including the United States, committed to Afghanistan's future is good for the Afghan people and the entire international community."
(Compiled from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan and NATO news releases.)