Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

International Security Assistance Force

In December, 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation and deployment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan. The purpose of ISAF is to secure the city and the Bagram air base from Taliban and al Qaida elements and factional warlords, and to allow for the establishment and security of the Afghan Transitional Administration.

For almost two years, the ISAF mandate did not go beyond the boundaries of Kabul. According to General Norbert Van Heyst, such a deployment would require and extra 10,000 soldiers at least. That responsibility was to be given to the Afghan National Army. However, on October 13, 2003, the Security Council voted unanimously to expand the ISAF mission beyond Kabul. Shortly thereafter, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said that that Canadian peacekeepers (nearly half of the entire force) would not deploy outside Kabul.

On October 24, the German Bundestag voted to send German troops to Kunduz. Between 230 and 450 of the 1,600 German ISAF eventually be deployed. This marked the first time that ISAF soldiers operated outside of Kabul.


ISAF command rotated among different nations on a 6-month basis. However there was tremendous difficulty securing new lead nations. To solve the problem, command was turned over indefinitely to NATO on August 11, 2003. That day, Nicholas Burns, the U.S ambassador to NATO wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the mandate of ISAF should be expanded beyond the capital Kabul. One option he suggested would be for NATO to participate in U.S.-led "Provincial Reconstruction Teams" which were already active in trying to enforce security outside Kabul. NATO spokesman Mark Laity insisted, however, that NATO would stick to ISAF's Kabul-oriented mandate.

The history of ISAF command is as follows: