On 31 August the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force will complete the deployment of additional forces in support of the National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections in Afghanistan. The elections are scheduled for 18 September 2005.

The Election Support Forces will assist Afghanistan’s Police and Army in providing area security for the elections by conducting operations both on the ground and in the air. They will also stand prepared to assist the Government forces in responding to unforeseen situations in order to enable an environment conducive to the successful conduct of National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections.

“The deployment of additional forces to Afghanistan underscores the Alliance’s continuing commitment to support the Afghan Government and its people along the path to a stable and democratic future”, said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

As during the Presidential elections, the primary responsibility for organising and carrying out the vote, as well as counting procedures rests with the joint Afghan Government and United Nations staffed Joint Election Management Body (JEMB).

While ISAF will assist, the Afghan authorities will retain primary responsibility for security throughout the election process.

The primary role of ISAF’s Election Support Forces will be to prevent, improve or respond to a critical situation in the ISAF area of operations. This includes Kabul, the northern and western Provinces in Afghanistan. The Election Support Forces are prepared to conduct a full range of operations including Quick Reaction Force duties and routine Peace Support Operations.

These elections mark the second round of post-war democratic elections following the election of President Hamid Karzai in October 2004.

Around two thousand additional ISAF troops from 10 nations are being deployed as Election Support Forces bringing the total number of ISAF forces over 11.000.

Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United States of America are contributing extra forces to ISAF to form the Election Support Forces.

The extra forces will be split into Land and Air components, with a reserve maintained outside the country, to give ISAF maximum flexibility in its support to the elections.

By supporting the National Assembly and Provincial Council Elections in September, NATO nations are one more time showing their commitment to the stabilisation of Afghanistan and a unique resolve to assist the Afghan authorities.

“Afghanistan is a top priority for NATO. Our own security is closely linked to the future of Afghanistan as a stable and secure country, where citizens can rebuild their lives after decades of war. The Alliance is determined to make this mission a success and we will remain in Afghanistan as long as necessary”, stressed NATO Secretary General.

With the expansion to the western area of Afghanistan this summer, ISAF now assists the Afghan authorities in providing security for nearly half of the country. Work is also already underway within NATO on ISAF’s further expansion to the south next year.

Since NATO took over the ISAF operation over two years ago, the security situation in Afghanistan has improved and much has been achieved on the path towards democracy. NATO is proud to have facilitated this progress. Further progress will require a sustained and well co-ordinated commitment on the part of the international community. The NATO Alliance will continue to play its part in that effort.

Reference : NATO (2005)099