NATO's mission in Afghanistan

Farooq attended the 2012 NATO leaders summit in Chicago representing the Department of Defence. Farooq is a public servant working in the Department of Defence's International Policy and Strategy Group focusing on Afghanistan. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and a Masters in Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University.


The decade plus mission in Afghanistan led by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) first major operation reaching beyond its European backyard.  Securing Afghanistan has become a priority for the alliance in its effort to tackle the spread of global terrorism. 

Afghanistan will require significant support from the international community for the remainder of this decade at least.  Failure to stabilise Afghanistan is likely to lead to broader instability in the region. This could allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for al Qaeda. This is predominantly why success for the NATO/ISAF mission in Afghanistan is vital. 

Long-term success in Afghanistan will not, however, simply come from the swift toppling of the Taliban regime, which has evidently supported al Qaeda and its affiliates.  This will be marked as a significant achievement, but success in Afghanistan overtime will also require the implementation of a genuine political strategy and Afghanistan will need to address the many challenges it faces today, including in areas of development and gender equality.  This should be coupled with the training and development of a capable and efficient Afghan security force that is able to provide stability for the people of Afghanistan.  

Since President Obama’s decision to employ the current counterinsurgency strategy and send in a 30,000 surge force to support those troops already on the ground, there has been enough evidence to suggest that the strategy will succeed despite some setbacks.1The NATO/ISAF mission in Afghanistan will succeed because the mission will have achievable standards and benchmarks.  It will not be possible to address all of Afghanistan’s issues before security responsibility is handed over to the Afghans, but NATO will achieve its main goals (i.e. degrade the insurgency, target al Qaeda and place Afghan forces in the lead in a responsible manner). 

This short paper will attempt to outline how NATO will succeed in Afghanistan and explore what mission success is likely to look like in that country.

Read More