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:
- December 2001 to June 2002: under the command of Great Britain, led by Major General John McColl.
- June 2002 to February 10, 2003: under the command of Turkey, led by Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu.
- February 10, 2003 to August 11, 2003: under the command of Germany and the Netherlands, led by Lieutenant General Norbert Van Hetst.
- August 11, 2003 to present (indefinitely): under the command of NATO, led by NATO Lieutenant General Goetz Gliemeroth, with Canadian Army Major General Andrew Leslie as his deputy. (Canada) had been originally slated for August 11)). Canadian Lieutenant General Rick Hillier is scheduled to assume command of this NATO force in February, 2004.
- In February 2002 South Korea sent a medical contingent of 99 soldiers.
- In November, 2002 ISAF, consisting of 4,650 troops from over 20 countries, was led by Turkey. Around 1,200 German troops were serving in the force alongside 250 Dutch soldiers operating as part of a German-led battalion.
- In March, 2003 ISAF was comprised of 4,700 troops from 28 countries.
- On June 7, 2003 in Kabul, a taxi packed with explosives rammed a bus carrying German ISAF personnel, killing four soldiers and wounding 29 others; one Afghan bystander was killed and 10 Afghan bystanders were wounded. The 33 peacekeepers, after months on duty in Kabul, were en route to the Kabul International Airport for their flight home to Germany. At the time, Germans soldiers made up more than 40% of ISAF.
- A study by Care International in the summer of 2003 reported that Kosovo had one peacekeeper to 48 people, East Timor one for every 86, while Afghanistan has just one for every 5,380 people.
- August, 2003, ISAF consisted of 5,000 troops from more than 30 countries. About 90% of the force were contributed by NATO countries. 1,950 were Canadian, by far the largest single contingent. However, other reports suggested that about 2,000 German troops were involved. Romania had about 400 troops at the time.
- As late as November, 2003, the entire ISAF force had three helicopters.