NATO troops end one Afghanistan mission, start another

The end of 2014 sees ISAF's operation in Afghanistan come to an end with a support mission set to begin

Baku. 28 December. REPORT.AZ/ After about 13 years, operations of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, known as ISAF, will conclude at the end of 2014. For several months, international troops have been clearing their camps across the country. The majority of the soldiers and the bulk of their equipment have already been returned home.

Report informs referring to Deutsche Welle, initially, there were the September 11, 2001 attacks: A couple of weeks after the terrorist attacks in the United States, the US government deployed troops to Afghanistan. Following the downfall of the Taliban regime, which had collaborated closely with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, ISAF's operation started in Kabul in December 2001.

At a later stage, the mission area was extended, under NATO leadership, to the whole of Afghanistan. At the operation's peak, more than 130,000 troops from roughly 50 nations were stationed across Afghanistan. The end of the mission, which was the longest in NATO's history and also claimed the highest number of lives, raises one obvious question: Was the international engagement a success or a failure?

High expectations in 2001, cautious optimism in 2014

The operation, carried out under a United Nations mandate, set its sights high, aiming to provide stability, assist in the rebuilding of Afghanistan and democratize the country. In addition, troops were to make sure that the country would no longer be a safe haven for international terrorists.

"Together we have done what we set out to do," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg lauded combat troops prior to their departure. "We have made Afghanistan stronger, and we have made our own nations safer. This has been a challenging mission in many aspects: militarily, politically, economically. But we have met these challenges."

Although no representative of the military alliance would claim victory, there is reason for cautious optimism: Al Qaeda leaders and training camps have disappeared from Afghanistan.

Whether the Taliban will succeed in re-taking control of swathes of the country after the end of the ISAF operation remains to be seen. In view of the fragile security situation and widespread corruption, some have expressed their misgivings regarding the country's stability.

Many politicians and members of the military are also concerned about a scenario similar to the situation in Iraq, which plunged back into chaos after the departure of US forces and whose troops were unable to stop the advancement of the militants fighting on behalf of the "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist organization.

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