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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 14 February 2005

AFGHANISTAN: Turkey takes over ISAF command

ANKARA, 14 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Turkey has assumed command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, a multinational UN-mandated force to assist the Afghan government and the international community in maintaining security.

"NATO has held the command of ISAF for the last two years and yesterday was the change of command from Eurocorps, which is a NATO Rapid Deployable Force, to the Rapid Deployable Corps in Istanbul," Karen Tissot van Patot, an ISAF spokeswoman, told IRIN from the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Monday.

Her comments came a day after Turkish Lt-Gen Ethem Erdagi took command of ISAF from Lt-Gen Jean-Louis Py of France.

ISAF was created in accordance with the Bonn Conference, in December 2001, after the ousting of the Taliban regime. The force was established to provide a secure environment in and around Kabul and support the reconstruction of the country devastated by more than two decades of war and conflict. ISAF is not a UN force, but is a coalition of the willing deployed under the authority of UN Security Council resolutions (1386, 1413, 1444 and 1510).

Initially, individual nations volunteered to lead the ISAF mission every six months. The first ISAF mission was run by the UK. Turkey then assumed the lead of the second. The third mission, as of February 2003, was led by Germany and the Netherlands with support from NATO.

Since August 2003, ISAF has been supported and led by NATO, and financed by troop-contributing countries. The 26-member alliance is responsible for the command, coordination and planning of the force. This includes providing a force commander and headquarters on the ground in Afghanistan. The force currently numbers 8,000 troops from 47 NATO and non-NATO nations. Individual contributions by each country change on a regular basis due to the rotation of troops.

Meanwhile, the force, which was mainly operational in the capital and nine northern provinces, is set to expand its mission in the country, NATO defence ministers confirmed after an informal meeting in Nice, France, on 9-10 February.

"NATO will now proceed to further expand the ISAF into the west of Afghanistan," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a recent statement, adding that the extended ISAF mission would provide security assistance in 50 percent of Afghanistan's territory.

According to NATO, the expansion to the west will establish a permanent ISAF presence in the form of four Provincial Reconstruction teams (PRT) and one Forward Support Base (FSB). There have been calls for ISAF to expand following several incidents in which relief and NGO workers were attacked over the past few years.

The NATO ministers also discussed in Nice a possible further expansion to the south and increasing synergies with the ongoing US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, operating mainly in the south and southeast of the country to rout out remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida.


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