New chapter for NATO in Afghanistan
The Headquarters of NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) took command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on 4 May at a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, spearheading international efforts to support the Government of Afghanistan in ensuring security, stability and redevelopment in the country.
The UK-led ARRC took over from the Italian-led NATO Rapid Deployable Corps which played a key role last year in providing a safe and secure environment for the first parliamentary and provincial council elections to be held in Afghanistan for 36 years.
The Commander of the ARRC, Lieutenant General David Richards speaking at the ceremony said: “We are fully prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead for NATO in Afghanistan. ISAF’s main effort will be to extend and deepen the areas in which the Government of Afghanistan, international and non governmental agencies can safely operate.”
The change of command also marks an expansion of NATO’s role in Afghanistan.
A revised operational plan for the NATO-led mission now comes into effect, paving the way for a larger ISAF footprint in the country, additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams and enhanced operational training support to the Afghan National Army.
ISAF will also support the Afghan Government in the disarmament of illegally armed groups and – within limits – Afghan and internationally-sanctioned counter-narcotics efforts.
The next stage of this plan – known as Stage 3 - will see NATO’s area of operations expanding this summer to include six additional provinces in the south of the country: Day Kundi, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul.
The number of NATO-led forces is also set to rise from approximately 9,000 now to about 15,000.As ISAF expands its operation into the south General Richards said he will not hesitate to use appropriate measures against those disruptive elements opposed to democracy and the rule of law in Afghanistan , including military force if necessary.