NATO Parliamentary Assembly


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1.  The UN-mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan represents the Alliance's most challenging operation to date.  There is broad consensus among strategic analysts and NATO leadership that 2007 is a critical year for the campaign to bring security and stability throughout the country and create conditions that will allow for substantial reconstruction and development to occur.  Hanging in the balance are a number of factors:  1) the Afghan government's credibility with its own population and with the international community, critical for the eventual success of efforts to build stability there; 2) the evolution of a global narcotics problem; 3) the potential re-emergence of a haven for terrorists with global reach and 4) not least, the credibility of the Alliance as an organization capable of meeting 21st century challenges. 

2.  No operation has presented as many complex challenges to the Alliance as this one; fighting out of its area, the Alliance has had to project to a geographically distant theatre, face an unorthodox adversary in extremely rugged terrain, and sustain its effort over a significant period of time.  With over 35,000 troops in Afghanistan, NATO's ISAF operation has the principal mission of providing and maintaining the necessary security and stability throughout the country to extend the reach of the Afghan government and allow reconstruction to occur.  ISAF, with 37 contributing nations including all the Allies, works alongside the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which approximately 8,000 US-led coalition forces, albeit with a distinctly different mandate.  ISAF also heads 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), tasked with assisting the local authorities in the reconstruction and maintenance of security in the area. 
3.  This report, prepared for the Defence and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, continues the work of this Committee over the past three years in assessing, over time, efforts in four areas: 1) narcotics production and trafficking; 2) progress in building the Afghan state; 3) the influence of regional warlords and 4) the development of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP).  This report also seeks to identify and enumerate some of the key challenges facing the Alliance in its military operations in Afghanistan, particularly in the area of capabilities, which will have to be addressed not only to ensure success in Afghanistan, but also to prepare for future missions NATO is likely to be required to undertake. 

4.  Long-term success in Afghanistan is widely recognized to require far more than military means alone.  Indeed, political solutions, including the strengthening of Afghan institutions, economic development, and regional cooperation are all critical elements of an eventual exit strategy for NATO.  However, while keeping the primacy of political solutions well in mind, your Rapporteur has deliberately chosen in this report to focus his recommendations on the operational challenges facing the Alliance.  It must also not be forgotten that the provision of a secure environment - one that allows for political and economic progress - is NATO and ISAF's principal mission.  Thus, a review of the military methods of providing that security is not only appropriate, but also necessary. 

5.  NATO's role in Afghanistan, of course, extends well beyond purely military engagement into reconstruction and stabilization activities, most clearly evident in ISAF's work with the network of PRTs.   ISAF's role in this respect may foreshadow an increasing demand for NATO involvement in such activities in future operations, and thus is worthy of further study.  Your Rapporteur intends to explore challenges confronting the Alliance in this area in future reports.

6.  Your Rapporteur is anticipating an opportunity to assess progress in the operation during a visit to Afghanistan this year.  Unfortunately, that visit had not occurred in time to be included in this report.  However, a mission report will be available shortly after the visit takes place and should be considered as an essential complement to this report.  This report is primarily intended as useful a background for such a visit and is based on open sources and briefings.  It has been updated to reflect events since its draft version, as well as comments received from national delegations to the NATO PA, including delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This version therefore differs significantly from previous drafts.


7.  By all accounts, Afghanistan has made huge strides in nearly every category of development since the Taliban were driven from power in 2001.  The fragile democracy that has been created features a moderate Constitution, a democratically elected President, and a sitting Parliament featuring dozens of female representatives.  Hundreds of schools have been built, the number of children enrolled has increased fivefold since 2001, and 34% of attendees are girls.  Over 80% of Afghans have access to health care; hundreds of health clinics have been built and are serving hundreds of thousands of Afghans per month.  Millions of children are receiving basic vaccinations. 

8.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is growing, from US$4.08 billion in 2002 to US$8.9 billion today; per capita income is said to have doubled since 2001.  Women's rights are protected under the Afghan constitution; 41% of the 8 million Afghans who voted in 2004 were women.  It is estimated that nearly 5 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan.  More than 10,000 km of road have been built, with thousands more under construction at this time.
9.  However, major challenges continue to face the Government of Afghanistan (GOA) and the international community, including NATO, as it seeks to provide a secure and stable environment in which to allow a broad range of actors to engage in longer-term reconstruction and development activities.  Among these, perhaps the most important is the resurgence of the Taliban and the renewed violence in the country .  The surge in violence in Afghanistan in 2006 was dramatic.  US President Bush listed harrowing statistics in a February 2007 speech, asserting that in 2006, "the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly fivefold... these escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country."  Increasing levels of violence have also hit the relatively more secure Northern and Western provinces in the first half of 2007. Other elements - narco-trafficking, tribal conflicts and land disputes - have also played a part in the escalating violence. 

10.  Increased tensions between Afghanistan and its neighbour Pakistan have also been a cause for concern.  Disputes centred on questions of border demarcation, and evidence that the border area and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs) in Pakistan have provided the Taliban with operational and logistical safe havens.  In response to these tensions, Afghanistan, Pakistan and ISAF together formed a Tripartite Commission of senior military representatives, intended to improve collaboration in specific areas such as border security and intelligence sharing. The Commission's work, while productive, has not resolved overarching difficulties in the bilateral Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship, but continues nonetheless. 

11.  Other problems continued to plague Afghanistan in 2006 and early 2007, including the expansion of the narco-economy, and the Government's inability to extend its influence over wider swaths of its own territory.  Some analysts also noted increasing doubts of Afghans themselves vis-à-vis their leadership, based on perceived corruption and the GOA's inability to extend public services beyond Kabul.  Despite the progress that has been made since 2001, these and other problems led many independent analysts to view the overall direction of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan in markedly less optimistic terms. 

12.  The Alliance responded to these challenges with an apparent re-commitment to the Afghanistan mission, starting with the Riga Summit of November 2006, where Heads of State and Government stated that they stood:

"with the Government of President Karzai and the people of Afghanistan who seek to build a stable, democratic and prosperous society, free from terrorism, narcotics and fear, providing for its own security and at peace with its neighbours [...].  We are committed to an enduring role to support the Afghan authorities." 

The declaration further re-committed the Alliance to:

"...continue to support the Afghan authorities in meeting their responsibilities to provide security, stability and reconstruction across Afghanistan through ISAF... We reaffirm the strong solidarity of our Alliance, and pledge to ensure that ISAF has the forces, resources, and flexibility needed to ensure the mission's continued success."

At Riga, some member states also began to move towards increasing their participation.  Allies also agreed to increase support to training and development of the ANA and to greater national contributions to training the ANP. 

13.  A January 2007 Foreign Minister's meeting called at the behest of the US Secretary of State, and subsequent meetings through March 2007, led to additional new troop contributions and financial pledges to the overall mission.  Overall, new troop contributions since the Riga Summit have totalled well over 7,000 troops.   Increased troop contributions have come from the Czech Republic (an additional 100 troops and a field hospital, including Military Police and a chemical warfare team); Latvia (70 additional troops for 2007 and 50 more in 2008); Lithuania (55 special forces troops) and Slovakia (with greater participation in PRTs); Bulgaria (as of the beginning of July) sent 335 additional troops to Kandahar and Kabul and an additional surgical team.  Norway was to have sent Special Forces - 100 troops  - to Afghanistan in April 2007.  The UK announced an additional 1,400 personnel to reinforce its troop levels in Helmand province.  Poland was due to deploy an additional 1,100 troops.  France has offered additional close air support, and Germany, after difficult domestic discussions, decided on the deployment of six Tornado reconnaissance jets as well as 500 more soldiers to Afghanistan in April 2007.  In May 2007, Italy announced the deployment of five new helicopters, 18 armored vehicles and 145 additional troops.  The United States extended the tour of a 3,200-soldier brigade, and called on Congress to provide US$11.8 billion in assistance to Afghanistan over the next two years.  Partners including Australia and New Zealand have also increased commitments. 1

14.  These additional commitments appeared to signal a renewed resolve by NATO member states and their allies to provide the resources deemed by Alliance military commanders to be required to carry out the mission in evolving circumstances.  Indeed, General Craddock (SACEUR) noted that the additional forces and capabilities provided in the first months of 2007 would provide the ISAF commander with "flexibility to fulfil his mission and reduce the risk to our troops in Afghanistan."  


15.  This report represents this Committee's fourth effort to track progress in the four critical and interrelated indicators of progress in Afghanistan.  While NATO has different levels of involvement in each of these areas, it is important to keep in mind that without progress in all of them, the security situation is unlikely to improve to a level acceptable to NATO.  Conversely, without the security and stability that only NATO can provide, progress in these areas will be impossible.  These areas must therefore remain of particular concern to us. 


16.  Our 2006 report indicated that, despite some hopeful signs of decrease in 2005, it appeared at that time that opium production in Afghanistan had resurfaced and become a critical threat to the country's stability.  This has unfortunately been confirmed in the latest figures, with a marked increase in opium production in the past year.  According to the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODC), in 2006 poppy cultivation increased by 59%, leading to overall opium production of 6,100 metric tons, which represents 92% of the global opium output.  The US State Department's 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report estimates 172,600 hectares of poppy were under cultivation in Afghanistan at the end of 2006; it is widely anticipated that this figure will be higher this year.  Opium-related activities comprise a considerable segment of the Afghan economy, accounting for over one quarter of the total Afghan GDP overall.

17.  Despite the 59% increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2006, opium prices fell by just 17% in the country.  Poppy cultivation thus remains profitable for Afghan farmers.  The latest UN assessments suggest that the relatively minor price drop indicates substantial stockpiling and expanding markets.  For instance, an increasing portion of opiates from Afghanistan are being trafficked to North America.  Heroin usage is also rising in Pakistan, Iran, Russia and India, as well as Afghanistan itself.

18.  Opium production is absent only in 6 out of the 34 Afghan provinces, with most of the production taking place in the Southern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Day Kundi.  In these provinces, in particular, poppy cultivation increased by 121% in 2006 and in the Helmand province alone more than 69,000 hectares are cultivated with poppies.  If current trends are not reversed, the province of Helmand alone - now accounting for 42% of all the illicit production in the world - could soon produce more heroin than the rest of country.  Opium production is also evident in the northern provinces of Badakhshan and Balkh and in the western province of Farah.  Drug production dominates the rural economy, involving some 400,000 families or 2.9 million individuals (more than 12% of the entire Afghan population). 

19.  This bleak picture indicates an unfortunate failure of current counter-narcotics programmes.  The challenges these programmes face are many.  The high mobility of the actors involved in the opium market and the flexible informal financial transfer system (hawala) employed mean that reductions in one province often produce increases in others, thus resulting in no overall national decline.  Farmers often resist eradication, especially the poorest ones who cannot afford to grow more expensive crops and to whom poppy cultivation represents the only source of revenue.  Destroying poppy crops often perversely results in an increase in opium prices due to reduced availability, which in turn creates more incentives for more poppy cultivation elsewhere.  Eradication programmes can also result in alienation of farmers from the Governmental authorities responsible for their implementation. 

20.  Unfortunately, both the UNODC and the Canadian organization Senlis Council forecast an overall increase in opium production for 2007, with increases in cultivation in the southern, eastern and western provinces expected to offset any decrease in the northern provinces.  In light of these disturbing trends, various different approaches are increasingly being discussed.  These include alternative livelihood programmes that would encourage farmers to shift to licit crops.  A detailed proposal put forward by the Senlis Council suggests legalizing poppy cultivation in order to use it for medicinal purposes by transforming it into morphine or codeine, and ensuring revenues are shared with farmers.  Increasing attention is also being given to a broader approach based on the importance of the development of an alternative economy, rather than simply on alternative livelihoods.  A sound counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan, however, will clearly also require regional engagement, including dialogue with neighbouring countries.

21.  ISAF has no direct role in counter-narcotics programmes that are implemented by the GOA's authorities.  However, the international community, led by the UK, is actively supporting the GOA's National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS).  ISAF supplies intelligence, training, and logistics that enable government security forces, including both the Army and Police, to carry out counter-narcotics operations.  In 2007, under the GOA's Poppy Elimination Programme (PEP), more than 19,000 hectares were eradicated through the efforts of the Governor-led Eradication programme and the the Afghanistan Eradication Force (AEF), an increase on previous years' totals. 

22.  However, the linkage between narcotics and broader insecurity in Afghanistan is clear.  The UNODC estimates that 80% of the villages with "poor" security are involved in poppy cultivation.  Warlords and armed groups control the Afghan drug industry and trade.  These groups, in the South particularly, are usually connected to the insurgency.  Drug profits represent the bulk of the insurgency's revenue stream as well as an instrument of political influence for the Taliban, whose popularity with farmers in rural areas soars when they protect poppy growers from governmental authorities.  It is thus evident that ISAF efforts to promote stability and security in a given region can also have positive effects on programmes to reduce poppy production by inhibiting and effectively weakening the Taliban's power base.


23.  As detailed in the introduction, Afghans have achieved several milestone political achievements since 2001 and the launching of the Bonn Agreement process.  Among the most important steps in this area was the permanent constitution approved in 2004, a compromise between Afghan traditional culture and modern constitutionalism.  The constitution provided Afghanistan with a stable government system and guaranteed rights for ethnic minorities and women.  It also set the rules for the October 2004 presidential elections and for the 2005 parliamentary elections, both most notable events.

24.  A conference in London in January 2006 marked the last stage of the Bonn process and transition to three crucial areas of activity for the next five years identified by the Government of Afghanistan (GOA) and the international community: 1) security; 2) governance, rule of law and human rights and 3) social and economic development.  The implementation of this set of political objectives, the so-called Afghanistan Compact, is to be supervised by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), co-chaired by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and a representative of President Karzai.  The body brings together key GOA members with the major international contributors to Afghanistan, regional powers, neighbouring states and the major international organizations (including NATO).

25.  The Afghanistan Compact has been undercut, however, by the heightened insecurity and instability that characterized 2006 and 2007.  In June, the Afghan Government set up the Policy Action Group (PAG), what it calls "a temporary crisis management group" to deal mostly with focusing and coordinating efforts to address the insurgency, especially in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces.  The PAG is comprised of members of the GOA and key international military and diplomatic actors.  The PAG has been praised by some observers, including General Jones, former SACEUR, and General Richards, former commander of ISAF, for its role in contributing to a more coordinated approach to the actions of various actors in Afghanistan in areas such as the delivery of international relief. 

26.  Perhaps the most important indication of the relative success of these various efforts is whether the Afghan people are benefiting from them.  Equally important is whether these potential benefits are translating in the population to support for the central government.  Indeed, without continued broad popular support, President Karzai's government (and the international community) faces a dramatically more difficult task.  As Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, former Commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, testified to Congress in February 2007, "the long-term threat to campaign success [...] is the potential irretrievable loss of legitimacy of the Government of Afghanistan.  If the Afghan Government is unable to counter popular frustration with the lack of progress in reform and national development, the Afghan people may lose confidence in the nature of their political system."

27.  Unfortunately, polling data about the Government's performance show mixed results at best.  It appears that, while the majority of Afghans still support the GOA and are generally favourable to President Karzai, this support has decreased during the last year.  For instance, a November 2006 survey by the Asia Foundation found that 44% of Afghans think the country is headed in the right direction versus 64% in 2004; and 21% feel it is moving in the wrong direction (vice 11% in 2004).  Polls from the Senlis Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies show steadily declining support for the central Government and little faith that it can assist them, particularly in provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar.  A joint ABC News/BBC World Service Poll from December 2006 showed similar trends, finding deterioration in a range of public perceptions about the country's condition: a 22% drop in views that it is headed in the right direction, a 17% drop in the belief that security has improved since the Taliban was in control and a 13% drop in personal optimism for the year ahead.  Trust in parliament was down by 18%; approval of President Hamid Karzai, down 15% (although 68% still approve of Karzai's work - down from 83% last year, but still a level most national leaders would envy).  Revealingly, the poll also found that 57% of Afghans call the Taliban the single greatest danger to their country, up 16% from a year before.

28.  The picture is mixed with regard to the judicial system and rule of law.  Significant progress has included over 40 judicial centres built or rehabilitated and 600 judges trained in the last five years.  However, judicial authorities and law enforcement officials remain widely mistrusted.  The poor overall performance of the judicial system is a major institutional weakness in Afghanistan.  It is a central factor in the GOA's inability to effectively address corruption and narcotics-related problems.  The judiciary suffers from inadequate levels of legal education and competency, as well as widespread corruption, especially at the local level.  One cause is the low pay afforded to prosecutors, which makes them susceptible to corruption (the average pay of US$65 per month for a prosecutor and US$100 for a judge is a pittance relative to the €500 a month paid to an interpreter working for the UN).  As a result of the official judiciary's limitations, Afghan citizens increasingly tend to rely upon local traditional courts (shura), a particular concern because the Taliban appear to be exerting increasing control on the shuras of the Southern provinces.  The insurgency has thus emerged as an alternative centre of authority in some Southern and Eastern districts. 

29.  Italy, the lead nation in the field of justice and rule of law, sought to re-energize efforts in this sector at a major donor's conference in Rome in July 2007, where it coordinated international pledges of US$360 million.  The funds are intended to support training of Afghan judges, police officers as well as for the construction of new prisons and other facilities. The Conference also agreed to elaborate a Justice Sector Strategy and establish a Provincial Justice Coordination Mechanism (PJCM), a donor coordination mechanism at the provincial level.

30.  Of particular interest to our Committee is the evolution of the bicameral parliament.  The National Assembly is composed of two chambers, the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House), whose members are elected by the people, and the Mesharano Jirga (Upper House), whose members are instead selected by provincial and district authorities as well as by the President.  So far, the Assembly has proved to be effective, it has renewed its procedural rules and it is in full control of the revision process of the national budget.  The Assembly has also played an important role in the selection of the Supreme Court members.

31.  As noted in last year's report, the Wolesi Jirga is divided in three main camps, with 84 members belonging to pro-government parties, 81 to opposition forces and the remaining 84 to independent and non-aligned factions.  A potentially powerful new multi-ethnic grouping of parliamentarians under the leadership of the former President of Afghanistan Burhanuddin Rabbani emerged in April 2007.  The United National Front (UNF) also includes political figures such as Yunus Qanuni, chairman of the Wolesi Jirga, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Mustafa Zaher, grandson of the former King of Afghanistan Mohammed Zahir Shah. As part of its programme aimed at reducing presidential powers, the UNF advocates increased power for the Parliament and calls for the direct election of provincial governors, currently appointed by President Karzai.  The weight of traditional and religious values on the Assembly members is still strong.  More worrying, ethnic divisions and warlords still exert a significant influence on the members.  This is not surprising given the fact that nearly 80% of the Assembly members had links to ethnic factions and illegal armed groups, a situation decried by Malalai Joya, an activist suspended from parliament for three years by her colleagues for criticizing fellow parliamentarians.

32.  Our 2006 Report suggested that there might be a role for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in offering assistance and expertise as experienced legislators to members of the Afghan parliament who might welcome such dialogue.  An exchange of letters between the Presidents of the NATO PA and of the National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in fact led to the beginning of such a dialogue, with Afghan parliamentarians participating in 2007 in the Assembly's Spring Session (including providing comments on this report) and in a New Parliamentarians Programme.  


33.  Afghanistan has long seen most power decentralized and in the hands of regional leaders who controlled their own militias and wielded total control over considerable portions of the country.   Our Committee's reporting on the problem of these so-called warlords in 2005 and 2006 indicated significant progress relative to the bleak situation in 2004, when the warlords and their militias posed what President Karzai had called the greatest threat to the country's security.  Indeed, the period 2004-2006 saw positive trends in which most militias were disbanded, heavy weapons were put into the control of the central government, and the central government slowly extended its control over larger swaths of territory. 

34.  Through political manoeuvring brokered by President Karzai, key warlords have been co-opted in the political and institutional life of Afghanistan.  The Uzbek warlord Abdel Rashid Dostum, leader of the Junbesh-I Milli-yi Islami, has been brought in as a military advisor to President Karzai.  In July 2004, his former Tajik rival, Atta Mohammad, was appointed governor of the province of Balkh.  Two months later, Ismail Khan was appointed Minister of Water and Energy.  The leaders of four of the seven factions that fought the Soviet Union and that were major players during the years of the civil war are currently sitting in the National Assembly.   As part of this process, in June 2006 President Karzai authorized some tribal militia to support local policing given the shortage of police personnel in some districts.

35.  The majority of militia and armed groups took part in the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG), implemented by the GOA, the UN-led Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) and Japan as the lead state.  A Joint Secretariat that comprises ISAF as well as the ANBP, UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), and the Afghan Ministries of Interior and Defence supports the DIAG.  The objective of the programme, started in June 2005 and to be completed by the end of 2007, was to disarm 1,800 illegal armed groups (IAGs), comprising nearly 120,000 members.   As of August 2007, Afghan authorities have collected 4,047 heavy weapons,  27,302 light weapons and more than 290,000 rounds of unboxed ammunition.  More than 40 commanders and 15 government officials linked to armed groups have given up their weapons.

36.  However, the process of dealing with the warlords' influence is far from complete.  They continue to exert considerable influence at both national and local levels.  Key resources and infrastructures are de facto controlled by former warlords, not only in the troubled Eastern and Southern provinces, but also in the North and in the West.  These local strongmen and their militias have supplanted the GOA as local security providers in many areas.  The influence of warlords is also particularly significant in the Wolesi and Meshrano Jirga.  Some Parliament members still have significant direct connections to their local militia.  Some of the warlords also exert direct influence on the assemblies through corruption and intimidation.  The February 2007 adoption of a controversial bill conceding amnesty to commanders who committed war crimes in past conflicts confirmed the power of warlords in Afghan politics. 

37.  Additionally, the DIAG appears to have reached a dead end; many militias in the South have refused to disarm because of heightened insurgent activity and attendant general insecurity.  It appears that illegal private militia may also be rearming in the Northern provinces, where local commanders and citizens are collecting weapons for personal security, given the inefficiency of the police, and due to concerns about the situation in the South.  It is estimated that more than 2,000 illegal armed groups are still operating in the country.

38.  However, warlords in the government have in certain instances played constructive roles, for example when President Karzai asked controversial figure Ismail Khan to intervene to calm Herat after the Sunni-Shia clashes of February 2006.  Nevertheless, over-reliance on tribal militia by central Afghan authorities has produced destabilizing consequences too.  Co-opting a given group and providing it official legitimacy almost by definition alienates its rival. This dynamic can put NATO and Afghan forces at risk of becoming involved in ethnic and tribal rivalries and conflicts.  Finally, historical evidence suggests that given access to political and economical resources, warlords will almost instinctively use them to strengthen personal power networks and political control and erode central state authority.  In this sense, co-opting warlords may prove seemingly effective in the short term, but it puts at risk the creation of a viable and stable Afghan state in the long-term.


39.  In June 2007, the Defence Ministers of NATO countries confirmed the Alliance's resolve to focus intently on the training of the Afghan National Security Forces.  The Final Communiqué states "long-term success in Afghanistan depends on strengthening and enabling the Afghan National Security Forces. We are determined to enhance substantially ISAF's capability to mentor and support the Afghan National Army and to enable the Afghan National Security Forces to take the lead in ensuring security throughout the country."
1. Afghan National Army (ANA)

40.  The ANA build-up and reform process has made significant progress, even exceeding expectations in some respects.  This follows the broad trends observed in our 2006 report.  The ANA is composed of approximately 35,000 soldiers, with a current end goal of 70,000 (14 brigades).  While it still has a long way to go before it achieves its goal of becoming a well-trained multiethnic force, the ANA is already present in most of the 34 provinces and it has become one of the most important symbols of national unity.  The ANA has already demonstrated significant operational and organisational capacity during operations conducted against the Taliban and alongside ISAF troops. 

41.  According to ISAF official documents, the ANA planned and led its first major operation in June 2007, when it and ANP forces carried out Operation Maiwand in the province of Ghazni, supported by ISAF's Task Force Fury.  Nearly 800 Afghan soldiers, 400 American soldiers and 200 ANP personnel took part in the operation, which ISAF states secured 86 villages in the province and allowed for 1,800 people to receive medical care.

42.  However, the ANA continues to face significant challenges.  The average unit is still at about 50% strength, and low-level leadership in particular is often very poor.  Very few senior commanders have any formal staff or command training.  Desertion rates due to inadequate salaries are also a problem. While an ANA soldier is paid about US$70 per month, a Taliban fighter could reportedly earn US$12 in just one day.  Some measures have helped, such as the appointment of Abdul Rahim Wardak, a Pashtun, as Defence Minister in December 2004, which led to decreased desertion rates among Pashtuns.  However, desertion appears likely to continue to be a problem until salaries are adequate and more equitable.  Another longer-term concern is the fiscal sustainability of the ANA.

43.  The US Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan (CSTC-A) has had primary responsibility for building the ANA.  So far, the United States has conducted the training of ANA units with limited participation of other nations such as France and the UK.  Embedded Training Teams (ETTs) throughout the ANA organizational structures are a prominent part of this effort.  As part of ISAF's role in supporting GOA's institutions and as a consequence of NATO's enlarged role in Afghanistan, ISAF is now actively working to train and equip the ANA.  NATO is also providing Functional Area Mentoring (in specific areas such as logistics) and Mobile Niche Training.  Finally, Allies have pledged to expand equipment donations necessary for current ANA operations and further expansion.  In April 2007, ISAF explicitly called for additional reinforcements of instructors for the ANSF. NATO allies with troops deployed in the South (the US, Canada, UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Estonia and Romania) endorsed this request in a mid-April meeting and agreed to press for a new deployment of 3,400 trainers for the ANSF.

44.  However, the incomplete or slow fulfilment of Allied commitments to the rebuilding and training of the Afghan national security forces overall has resulted in increasing Afghan impatience.  One example is the slow deployments of ISAF Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams (OMLTs), small groups of 19 to 45 officers and NCOs responsible for the training of the ANA units to which they are attached.  The OMLTs were to take the place of US ETTs, but NATO has had difficulties fielding them to date. 2

45.  In addition, critical equipping programmes in particular continue to be hampered by relatively meagre input from countries other than the United States.  Full participation in these programmes by Allies will be necessary to resolve major shortages which continue to hamper the ANA, in areas such as basic equipment, armoured vehicles, and heavy equipment.  This last deficiency, for example, results in the ANA's near-total dependence on ISAF and coalition forces for air and artillery support. 

2. Afghan National Police (ANP)

46.  The situation appears to be somewhat less successful with regard to the ANP, which some officials have characterized as several years behind the ANA in terms of development.  The ANP currently consists of about 62,000 personnel, with a long-term objective of 82,000 trained officers, including the Auxiliary Police, Border Police, Civil Order Police and Counter-Narcotics Police. 

47.  A significant problem facing the Ministry of Interior and Police units is that of a worrying level of corruption.  Influence over local poppy policy enforcement has also made local police posts particularly vulnerable to the corrosive effects of the narco-economy, with appointments to local police posts (and thus control or at least knowledge of eradication operations or trafficking routes) being purchased through bribes, as well as the direct bribing of officials in place.  Further difficulties are similar to those faced by the ANA:  largely illiterate recruits, salary deficiencies, and lack of mentoring continue to be major problems.  This in turn has weakened Afghan law enforcement action and increased public discontent.  The police forces, just as many other areas, have also become embroiled in political decisions from Kabul, with mixed results; President Karzai's politically-motivated appointment in June 2006 of 11 senior police chiefs who had failed merit exams has, for instance, been criticized.

48.  The ANP training programme has been led by Germany, with substantial contributions by other countries, particularly the United States as of 2005.  So far, Germany has spent €70 million in police reform and trained 4,300 Afghan policemen in long-term courses and 14,000 in short-term courses.  The EU has also played a role in developing the ANP forces, especially as the largest contributor (€135 million in 2003-2006) to the Law and Order Trust Fund of Afghanistan (LOFTA), which funds police salaries, training and procurement of non-lethal equipment.

49.  However, the relatively slow progress in the ANP's development led to some new initiatives in 2007.  In February, the EU Council approved an ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) mission to Afghanistan in the field of policing, with a particular focus on police reform.   The resulting EU Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL AFGHANISTAN), consists of approximately 195 police, law enforcement, and justice experts that will be deployed in Kabul as well as at the regional and provincial level.  Though a relatively small commitment, this development was welcomed by NATO, whose leadership had been calling for just such an effort and had emphasized the need for improved cooperation between NATO and EU on the ground in Afghanistan.  In addition, the United States has also made the decision to ramp up what had already been the largest programme of support to the ANP, dedicating two thirds of its funding for Afghan Security Forces to the Police.3 

50.  In 2006, the Policy Action Group (PAG) - set up to coordinate international counter-insurgency efforts - also decided to establish an Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP) to reinforce the security forces in the South.  However, there are some concerns regarding the poor training of this force and coordination problems with the ANA and ANP.  The ANAP could also conceivably aggravate tensions between ethnic groups.  Northern ethnic groups, in fact, have expressed concerns about the recruitment of ANAP forces drawn mainly from Pashtun tribal militia in the South, exactly at a time when northern units are being asked to disarm. 


51.  NATO's operations in Afghanistan are, of course, critically important to the country itself.  However, they present the further opportunity to examine how well the Alliance has been able to project power, sustain its troops, and fight in a complicated environment that in all likelihood is largely indicative of other environments the Alliance may be required to face in the future.   In this context, it is useful to highlight some of the principal difficulties and shortfalls the Alliance has faced, both in order to suggest possible course corrections in Afghanistan, as well as to better understand what capabilities the Alliance should be developing for the future. 

52.  As HQ SACT Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Michel Maisonneuve, has put it, with missions such as its operations in Afghanistan, the Alliance has gone from "preparing" to "doing."  This means that the Alliance must use these deployments to ask whether organization, processes, systems, and capabilities are all adequate for the current operational environment.  He specifically cites ISAF as perhaps serving as "the greatest transformational test ever for the Alliance."


53.  A major issue facing the Alliance in Afghanistan over the past year has been that of personnel shortfalls.  It is an important sign of solidarity that all NATO member states have contributed to operations in Afghanistan.  However, a consistent feature of the mission has been an incomplete fulfilment of the requirements laid out by the Alliance's military leadership, and that leadership's public appeals for additional resources.  General Craddock, the current SACEUR, reminded journalists at a February 2007 press conference that NATO military authorities have never been provided with sufficient forces by member states to carry out the mission of conducting security and stability operations as required throughout Afghanistan.  His predecessor, General James Jones, as he was leaving his duties as SACEUR at the end of 2006 called for additional troops, as well as a squadron of attack helicopters and three C-130 transport aircraft to combat the increased violence facing ISAF in 2006.  General David Richards, the previous ISAF Commander, consistently expressed a need for additional troops throughout his period of tenure.  The broad categories of shortages have included manoeuvre units in Regional Commands South and West; reserve units stationed outside Afghanistan able to respond quickly to events inside the country; additional forces to interdict insurgents crossing the border; shortages in PRT manpower and in Special Operations Forces. 

54.  Ultimately, the Alliance's needs as expressed by General Craddock in February 2007 appeared to have partially been addressed by contributions from several member states, as detailed in the introduction to this report.  However, the demand for NATO member states' military resources will continue to be high given the number and scale of deployments currently undertaken by most Allies, including for a significant number of European countries (Kosovo, Bosnia, DRC, Iraq, Lebanon etc).  This may well limit their ability and willingness to continue to sustain the Alliance's tempo of operations in Afghanistan.  Public opinion in some NATO member states appears to favour a reduced military emphasis and presence in Afghanistan, with a strong preference for civilian involvement.  And as recently as July 2007, Gen. Dan McNeill, the top US commander in Afghanistan, continued to reiterate calls for NATO countries to increase their participation in Afghan operations, saying that "we need troops that can be easily mobilized and we need helicopters."4   

55.  A closely related question is the issue of national caveats, with the central issue of granting operational commanders the freedom to use the right mix of troops to fulfil most effectively a given mission. Caveats are rules imposed by a nation on the ways in which its forces may be employed by Alliance commanders.  They can be of a functional nature, such as a ban on night-time operations due to a lack of night-vision equipment; or they can be geographic, meaning that a country's forces could not be sent outside a designated area of operations without explicit approval from its capital.  As underlined by General Craddock in April 2007, "caveats restrict the flexibility of the commander of the COM ISAF level, ISAF HQ and then at the regional level in terms of what forces subordinate to them are not allowed to do. [...] With caveats the risk to every NATO service member is increased". 

56.  Some operationally restrictive national caveats have reportedly been lifted as a result of increased political pressure at Riga and in the first months of 2007.  In particular, nations with geographic caveats reportedly pledged at Riga to allow their forces to be called upon by NATO commanders, should 'in extremis' situations arise5. There apparently remain both declared caveats, as well as undeclared ones, which Commanders may only discover when asking a unit to undertake a particular action. We will seek more information on the current status of national caveats during our visit to Afghanistan.  However, in the interim, we cannot but reaffirm the strong and unambiguous stance taken by the NATO PA in its 2006 resolution on "Reaffirming NATO's Unity of Purpose in Afghanistan."  The Resolution urged NATO members "to increase further the effectiveness of NATO's joint operations by removing those national caveats that are currently impeding the prompt and effective utilisation of some NATO forces currently deployed in Afghanistan." 

57.  The prioritization of the training and equipping of ANSF by NATO brings with it some necessary commitments that are still falling short.  On training, the full provision of OMLTs will be necessary.  Equipping the ANSF may also require not only the identification of possible donors of surplus military equipment, but also the creation of a NATO Trust Fund to assist in paying for the transport of donations of gear to Afghanistan. 

58.  Yet another critical question will rear its head in 2007:  as a number of the NATO member states most heavily participating in ISAF operations begin to contemplate a redeployment of their troops, the Alliance must turn its attention to the implications of such decisions.  Will the Afghan National Security Forces and central government have evolved to a sufficiently robust level to assume the duties and responsibilities currently undertaken by ISAF?  Will other NATO member states be called on to replace those currently fighting in the most intense zones of conflict?  Will they step forward if called?  6


59.  Beyond the personnel shortfalls that have been a consistent hindrance to NATO's military and political leadership, Commanders have also emphasized several other capabilities they would like to see enhanced in Afghanistan.  Probably chief among these has been additional airlift of almost every kind, including attack and transport helicopters and reconnaissance aircraft, as well as additional strategic lift such as C-130s.  General Craddock recently specifically appealed for additional medium and heavy-lift helicopter and fixed-wing capability for intra-theatre airlift and rotary-wing capability to move tactical forces around Afghanistan. 

60.  Helicopters in particular are a critical capability in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.  The huge country is still plagued by a near total lack of roads and infrastructure; and where roads do exist, their use can expose troops to IED or other insurgent attacks.  These are among the factors which make helicopters indispensable for both military (bringing troops to the fight) and civilian operations (rapidly transporting materials for high-impact reconstruction projects such as schoolhouses or medical facilities).  Commanders have periodically appealed for additional rotary-wing assets throughout the campaign to satisfy the need for 20 helicopters to relieve the US helicopter bridging force in Kandahar.  Despite the fact that Alliance helicopter inventories in Europe are large, there is little readiness to deploy them.  It should be noted that the need for additional helicopters validates the Alliance's ongoing investments in strategic lift, which will be necessary to move this type of asset to distant operational theatres such as Afghanistan.  Helicopter maintenance and logistics "tails" also remain significant capabilities shortfalls. 

61.  General Craddock in early 2007 publicly appealed for additional capabilities in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) - specifically citing the need for more Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs), an increasingly valuable tool on the modern battlefield as they become more sophisticated and capable.   His appeal echoed what his predecessors had sought from member states as early as January 2006.  It has also been reported that in Afghanistan, European members in particular have too few helicopters and armoured vehicles; logistics coordination and radio communications are additional equipment and organizational weaknesses. 

62.  Short rotations at ISAF Headquarters have also apparently created problems for the cohesion of Command and Control.  Assignments to ISAF HQ reportedly typically last between three and 12 months, creating a disruptive shuffle of personnel and curtailing the potential benefits of continuity and institutional memory. 

63.  Finally, NATO Commanders at Allied Command Transformation believe there are advantages to be gained by solving some relatively technical interoperational issues.  HQ SACT Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Michel Maisonneuve, recently told the NATO PA that the Alliance should put greater emphasis on interoperability, both technical and operational.  He cited the example of the fact that there are over 30 databases in ISAF, none of which can communicate with the others, leaving the command and control system dependent on a fragile system of work-arounds. 


64.  Reports of rising levels of civilian casualties caused by NATO and OEF operations have contributed to a decline in Afghan popular support for the GOA and NATO.7  The Afghan Delegation to the NATO PA has repeatedly insisted on this point in joint meetings, and stressed that Afghan citizens increasingly fear that international forces are not taking all possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties.  Despite statements by NATO's Secretary General that the Taliban was deliberately causing civilian casualties in engagements with NATO troops in order to undermine popular support for ISAF, and that there was no moral equivalence between NATO's actions and the Taliban's deliberate targeting of civilians in acts such as suicide bombings, the civilian casualties have also struck a chord in NATO member state populations. 

65.  NATO officials indicate that increased civilian casualties are partly due to increased use of human shields by the Taliban, and their choice to engage ISAF and American forces from populated areas.  Civilian casualties also have resulted from an increased reliance on air power by member state personnel.  According to SACEUR General Craddock, this is a result of a relatively light force spread over a large geographic area, which often does not have sufficient numerical superiority to overwhelm the enemy in a given engagement.    As a result, air power is more often considered the only recourse when member state forces encounter difficulties.

66.  NATO has responded by issuing new operational instructions to its forces in Afghanistan, including potentially reducing the size of bombs used in air strikes.  Some officers on the ground have also called for more effective use of precision weapons.  These assets would allow for targeted strikes against the insurgency's leadership, while minimizing the potential for unintended civilian deaths.  However, the effective use of these types of munitions is heavily dependent on intelligence assets, and while there appear to be enough assets of these types (such as Unmanned Arial Vehicles used by Canada, the UK, or the Netherlands, as well as the German Tornado) on the ground, getting them to work together in an interoperable fashion continues to be a problem - partially because of incomplete sharing of data between nations.8 

67.  NATO also established in December 2006 a Post Operations Humanitarian Relief Fund intended to help war victims.  However, reports indicate that only five countries have contributed to the fund.  Although no initiative could substitute for the avoidance of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, more allied support for the fund is necessary as a statement of Allied intentions.  Additionally, as President Karzai has stated, better coordination is needed between international forces and Afghan political and military authorities to ensure all actors have a common operational picture. 

68.  NATO Member States committed themselves to many of these measures at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in June 2007.  They specifically called for improved planning and coordination between ISAF, OEF and the ANA; timely investigations of any incidents; and greater allied contributions to humanitarian relief funds.  Ensuring these commitments are backed by real actions will be essential.


69.  Your Rapporteur has underlined the importance of the ISAF mission for NATO; enumerated both its progress and some obstacles that must be addressed by the Alliance and member states to ensure mission success; and suggested a number of questions deserving further consideration in addressing some of these obstacles. 

70.  While it is evident that over the last five years, Afghanistan has made very impressive strides, the setbacks of 2006 necessitated a re-evaluation by the Alliance of its role in theatre as well as its strategy as it works to create a secure environment for political and economic development.  It appears a renewed dedication to the mission by Allies and non-NATO participating nations emerged in 2007.   We must now ensure that these efforts are properly resourced and sustained.

71.  Ultimately, NATO's role in Afghanistan is about creating the conditions for development to occur; the Alliance continues to have limited capabilities to perform all the necessary reconstruction and development tasks, which are more in line with capabilities and competencies of other international organizations, notably the United Nations and the European Union.  It therefore goes without saying that the engagement of, and NATO's cooperation with, other actors in Afghanistan is a sine qua non of overall mission success. 

72.  It must be underlined that NATO will not be able to carry out the mission assigned to it by member states, if those member states do not adequately address the shortfalls detailed above.  In particular, member states must provide the personnel and capabilities demanded by operational requirements, as determined by military commanders.  Once NATO undertook its political commitments to Afghanistan, it incurred a responsibility to provide commanders with the resources to implement appropriate military strategies to fulfil those commitments.  Member states must acknowledge the responsibility they placed upon their joint forces by delivering the wherewithal required in good time and full measure. 

73.  Beyond fulfilling its commanders' operational needs, NATO must also fulfil other commitments it has made to efforts to rebuild the Afghan national security forces.  In particular, training and equipping programmes are in danger of falling short and must be re-energized.

74.  The Alliance should also take the long view of its engagement in Afghanistan.  Beyond ensuring this mission's success, it must also continually assess its efforts and capabilities, with a view to ensuring that NATO will have what it needs when it is called to take on similar operations in the future.  These lessons should dictate the planning of defence investments and strategies that the Alliance and member states collectively undertake. 

75.  The success of ISAF is of critical importance for the Alliance and must remain NATO's top priority during what may be difficult times ahead.  The significant challenges facing Afghanistan mean that success is by no means assured.  Ensuring that NATO achieves its goals will depend on several factors:  First, maintaining Alliance cohesion on the importance of the mission and on the strategy for victory. In particular, political leaders have a responsibility to continue to communicate the importance of Alliance's role in Afghanistan and of a sustained commitment over time to their publics, in order to ensure the Operation comes to full fruition.  Second, applying NATO's firepower and other resources as efficiently as possible, by maximizing interoperability and eliminating internal barriers to effectiveness. Third, the Alliance must do its utmost to ensure that its efforts are appropriately coordinated with other institutions playing important roles in Afghanistan, most notably the Government of Afghanistan, the United Nations, and the European Union.  Finally, particular attention must be given to the issue of civilian casualties caused by NATO operations.  Failing to find a balance between the legitimate use of force and eroding popular support for ISAF could undercut support for both ISAF and the central Government, and potentially lead to the unraveling of the substantial progress achieved to date.

76.  It is the Defence and Security Committee's intent to continue to evaluate the progress of the Alliance's efforts in Afghanistan and report its findings to the Assembly as long as NATO forces remain in theatre, with an eye to supporting the efforts of the Alliance and of the Government of Afghanistan to provide a secure and stable environment for its citizens. 


1   Australia announced in April 2007, that it planned to double its deployment in Afghanistan by sending Special Air Services soldiers and commandos to Uruzgan province; the total Australian commitment in Afghanistan following new deployments will be approximately 970 personnel by mid-2007 and will peak at approximately 1000 by mid-2008.
2   France recently announced an increase in its contributions to the OMLTs, from 50 to 200 personnel.
3   The US announced in January 2007 an additional US$10.6 billion in assistance to Afghanistan over the next two years, with US$8.6 billion going to the expansion, training and equipping of the ANSF. 
4   "US Commander in Afghanistan Calls for More NATO Troops", Agence France-Presse, Berlin, July 27 2007
5   NATO's Secretary General stated at his closing press conference after the Riga Summit that "There was a clear commitment by all [twenty] six NATO Allies that in an emergency ... they will support each other.  ... We have made real progress on caveats after a fresh look and a new discussion we had here in Riga, a number of missions have diminished the caveats.  And the result is, as we speak, about 20,000 of the total of 32,000 NATO-ISAF forces are now more useable than they were for combat and non-combat missions."  What constitutes an 'in extremis situation' remains unclear. 
6    For example, the Dutch Government has stated its intent to fulfil existing commitments until August 2008, and is currently discussing what form, if any, an extension of its mission might take.  The Canadian mission has a parliamentary mandate until February 2009, and opposition parties are calling for withdrawal at that time.  The mandate for renewing the German mission will come up for renewal in the Bundestag between October and November 2007.
7   Estimates of the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan vary widely, and NATO officials have accused the Taliban of a deliberate misinformation campaign on this issue.  The UN reports 314 civilians killed i, n 2007, by international or Afghan forces as of July 2007, versus 279 killed by insurgents. The Associated Press tallied reports from Afghan and western offic, ials and arrived at a total of 238 civilians killed from January 1 to May 10 2007, including at least 102 caused by NATO or the US-led coalition. The Senlis Council counts at least 245 casualties caused in 2007 by NATO attacks as of 24 June 2007, with the Taliban causing at least 244 civilian casualties during the same period.

8   Osborn, Kris, "NATO: Afghan Army Key to Fighting Insurgency," Defense News, June 11, 2007; Pugliese, David, "NATO Seeks More ISR for Afghan Combat," Defense News, June 4, 2007.