Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, NATO countries have been engaged militarily in Afghanistan under a mandate from the United Nations to prevent the country from ever becoming again a safe haven for terrorism. Since 2003, military operations are led by NATO. Afghanistan remains NATO’s largest operation to date and a priority for all NATO member and partner nations which contribute troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there.

As elected representatives of the people, national parliamentarians have an essential role in explaining to their citizens the reasons for the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, and the important role NATO’s ISAF mission fulfils, in support of Afghan authorities, for providing the conditions for long-term security and stability across the country. Many national parliaments across the Alliance have a direct role in deciding the deployment of troops in operations.

Afghanistan is therefore a strong ongoing focus for the Assembly. Committees and Sub-Committees constantly review developments and assess international efforts in the country. Delegations of Assembly members regularly travel to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan and NATO officials, and witness first-hand the progress achieved and remaining challenges. Members of the Afghan, as well as the Pakistani, parliament, are regularly invited to participate in Assembly sessions, seminars and training programmes. In these different fora, they can exchange views with their counterparts from those nations involved in ISAF, and get better acquainted with NATO’s structure, processes and policies. These exchanges contribute to mutual understanding, and help strengthen important links between parliamentarians from ISAF nations, Afghanistan and Pakistan.