NATO has formally ended its combat missions in Afghanistan which leaves the Afghan army and police in charge of maintaining security within the country according to NATO. Regarding the people of Afghanistan Mission Commander Gen. John Campbell stated that NATO have “given them hope for the future”. NATO aims to now move into a role more training and support orientated as it moves away from a combat based presence.
At the flag ceremony Gen. John Campbell, when speaking on NATO’s mission, said it may “serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership” between NATO and Afghanistan. NATO presence within the country aims to remain with around 17,000 international troops of whom around 12,000 forming as new NATO mission named Resolute Support. During the thirteen year move the international coalition has helped create a 350,000 troop Afghan security force from scratch whom, it is planned, may maintain security within the country. Equally, security efforts within the country will be bolstered by US willingness to provide air support for Afghan forces in certain circumstances.
The ending of NATO combat mission may mean that Afghanistan might begin functioning with more control over their own affairs with the backdrop of continued support by NATO. Furthermore, with the signing of two security pacts in September between the Afghan government, NATO and the US may be viewed with considerable optimism however political decisions within the country are on hold due to the Afghan government’s challenge in forming a cabinet since recent elections. NATO might look back at the mission within Afghanistan as a success and may be able to cite higher life expectancy and greater amounts of women within the workforce as Gen. Campbell did at the formal ceremony.
Throughout the combat mission Afghan forces have been trained by soldiers from the international coalition and have been posted with soldiers from different countries and undertaken missions together. Furthermore, the creation of the Afghan security service might be one of the most successful parts to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan if the forces are able to provide effective security within their own country.
US President Barack Obama, whilst speaking on the end to the combat mission, said “These past 13 years have tested our nation and our military” and that “compared to the 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan when I took office, we now have fewer than 15,000 in those countries. Some 90% of our troops are home”. Equally, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined the new US relationship with Afghanistan as training, assisting and advising whilst also continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country to help protect both Afghans and other countries.
Reconstruction within Afghanistan might continue with the United States having already spent $100m on rebuilding on top of the $1 trillion spent on the war effort. Whilst Afghanistan may have involvement of the international coalition in some capacity for a while yet this change of combat role and continued support both in a militaristic role and civilian highlights the cooperation between the various governments involved.
Afghanistan and NATO’s mission there in the past 13 years has been of huge importance internationally and is important to the image of NATO if security is maintained. Whilst the transition and mission has been challenging if it leads to a safer and more secure Afghanistan it might be considered a success.
Whilst the beginning of the deployment and the rationale behind the reasons which led to the international coalition’s presence in the country might be vigorously debated, this transition marks a significant part in Afghanistan’s modern history as it may be the beginning to it functioning more independently. The ending of NATO’s combat mission in the country is of course a time of reflection upon the challenges faced and costs spent, however it may also be a time for Afghanistan to look towards its future.
How might the ending of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan offer a more productive direction to the Middle East?