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Pentagon Official Explains Force Structure in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2009 – It would be easy to confuse Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan with the NATO International Security Assistance Force there. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal commands both organizations.

The biggest difference, officials say, is the mission.

Operation Enduring Freedom was the U.S.-led operation that toppled the Taliban in 2001. American and coalition servicemembers worked with the Afghan Northern Alliance soon after the terror attack in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Part of Operation Enduring Freedom retains that mission: to find and kill or capture terrorists.

Since 2001, servicemembers assigned to Operation Enduring Freedom also have been responsible for training Afghan security forces. Americans assigned to Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan operate under Operation Enduring Freedom, controlled by U.S. Central Command.

While Operation Enduring Freedom troops are focused on forcing out the enemy and training and equipping Afghan forces, NATO forces are focused on Afghan civilians.

“The focus of the International Security Assistance Force is security for the Afghan people, so reconstruction, governance and development work can take place,” Army Lt. Col. Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “The focus of Operation Enduring Freedom personnel is training Afghan security forces and counter-terrorism.”

About 85 percent of the Operation Enduring Freedom effort now is centered on training and equipping Afghan forces, Wright said.

The United Nations established ISAF in 2001. The force was responsible for security in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul and various nations volunteered to command the force on six-month rotations. NATO took command of the force on Aug. 11, 2003. Control expanded to Regional Command North in 2004, Regional Command West in 2005, Regional Command South in 2006 and Regional Command East in 2006. The ISAF mission is to assist the Afghan government by providing a secure and stable environment.

“ISAF and Afghan forces conduct operations throughout the country to defend the people from the Taliban and other terrorist groups,” Wright said.

American forces assigned to ISAF come under the control of U.S. European Command.

Of the 57,000 U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan, 28,850 are in ISAF.

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Related Sites:
U.S. Forces Afghanistan
NATO International Security Assistance Force


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