Today marks another important milestone in the progress of improving security and stability in Afghanistan. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force assumed command of international military security operations in eastern Afghanistan from coalition forces today, effectively becoming responsible for security operations throughout the country.
The transition from a US-led coalition to the NATO/ISAF-led security operation was started two years ago with transfer of responsibility for the northern part of Afghanistan to NATO. The transfer today signifies continued progress and commitment. The Afghan National Army has been integrated into Coalition combat operations, resulting in increased capability which has enabled the transfer of authority to NATO/ISAF to occur today.
The United States remains committed to the future of Afghanistan and the success of this NATO operation. We will continue to lead the counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, train and equip the Afghan national security forces and assist with reconstruction. Our commitment to the alliance is also evident as the United States will continue to provide military troops and capability to the NATO/ISAF mission as ISAF’s largest troop contributor, and we welcome further international participation.
Much progress has occurred, most notably the first free national elections in Afghanistan last year, and improvements in security and reconstruction continue. Continued international support is crucial to further the progress that Coalition and NATO have made in Afghanistan during the past five years. As we work through current security challenges, the international community’s increased support for reforming the Afghan police, developing a judicial system, and combating the narcotics problem is crucial for long-term success in Afghanistan.
Today’s events remind us of the sacrifices proud professionals from many nations have made for the people of Afghanistan and our collective security. The NATO alliance’s successful record in Afghanistan speaks volumes about the future of Afghanistan. Tested militarily and diplomatically, nations have continued to answer by supporting free elections, expanding the mission, and supporting reconstruction and redevelopment in Afghanistan. Today’s expansion is yet another step toward a brighter future for the people of Afghanistan.