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1. At the November 2010 Lisbon Summit NATO member states clearly re-affirmed theirenduring long term commitment to a sovereign, independent, democratic, secure and stableAfghanistan. Members pledged their commitment to the Afghan people and to an Afghanistan thatwill never again be a safe haven for terrorists and terrorism. The Lisbon Summit Declarationunderlined that the UN-mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)mission in Afghanistan ‘remains the Alliance’s key priority’, and welcomed the important progressthat had been made to date. Strategically, the declaration bound the future security of the Alliancewith the future security of Afghanistan by asserting ‘Afghanistan’s security is directly linked to ourown security’, whilst welcoming the valuable and increased contributions made by ISAF partners.
2. The ISAF mission has entered a new phase of transition, or ‘
in Dari. Within theframework of Afghan sovereignty, the objectives of the
framework are ‘to strengthenAfghan ownership and leadership across all functions of government and throughout the territoryof Afghanistan’.
This phase has already seen the process of transition to full Afghan securityresponsibility and leadership in seven provinces and districts in 2011, constituting 21% of theAfghan population.
3. NATO’s senior leadership has been adamant that transitions will be based on conditions onthe ground rather than driven by any political calendar or deadline, following joint Afghan andNATO/ISAF assessment and decision. Looking toward the end of 2014, member statesexpressed their intent that Afghan forces will assume full responsibility for security across thewhole of Afghanistan. After transition, NATO forces are slated to remain in a supporting role.
4. The killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has fed into a reassessment in many NATOcapitals regarding how rapidly withdrawals from Afghanistan could and should occur. TheJune 2011 speech by US President Obama, in which he announced the phased withdrawal ofpreviously ‘surged’ US troops, has increased focus on the transition strategy and the ability of theAfghans to provide their own security and governance within the 2014 timeframe. It has alsoprompted other NATO member states to announce their own withdrawal/end of combat missiondates. It should be noted that, for all the strategic and political repercussions of bin Laden’s death,the event has had little impact on day to day operations in Afghanistan itself.5. This discussion also occurs in the context of continued insecurity in Afghanistan, as 2010was the most lethal year for both Afghan civilians and NATO personnel and the first six months of2011 have been the most lethal for Afghan civilians since this conflict began.
Recent datacollected by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) suggests that total insurgent attacksbetween January and March 2011 have soared 51% higher than last year. The increase in thenumber of attacks between seasons is also higher than the same period in 2010. March 2011 saw1,102 attacks, averaging 35 per day, even surpassing the August 2009 peak surrounding thePresidential elections.
The deliberate targeting by the insurgency of high-profile Afghan officialsinvolved in the transition process also presents a significant challenge.
Lisbon Summit Declaration
(20 November 2010), Press Release, PR/CP(2010)0155.
Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Participants,
Kabul International Conference on Afghanistan Communiqué
(20 July 2010).
ISAF Strategic Transitions and Assessment Group,
Situational Awareness Brief on Transition
, given onNATO PA Visit to Afghanistan, 8 June 2011.
NATO, “NATO and Afghanistan Launch Transition and Embark on Long-Term Partnership,”
, 20 November 2010, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_68728.htm.
BBC, “Afghanistan: ‘Deadliest Six Months’ for Civilians,”
, 14 July 2011,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14149692.
The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office,
ANSO Quarterly Data Report Q1. 2011
(Kabul: The AfghanistanNGO Safety Office, 2011), p.8.