WASHINGTON (Talon News) — The State Department announced on Monday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has assumed the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan.

According to State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker, this new mission represents “NATO’s further transformation as an Alliance that will meet the new security challenges of this century.”

“NATO’s leadership of the International Security Force will also help provide the secure environment for the accelerated efforts of the United States and the international community to help the Afghan government and people to reconstruct their country and rebuild its political institutions,” Reeker said in a statement issued Monday.

“NATO’s leadership will bring new continuity to the International Security Assistance Force,” Reeker added. “The Alliance has appreciated the contribution of individual Allies in accepting temporary leadership of the Force until now, but NATO’s new role removes the uncertainty of finding a new country to lead the mission every six months.”

The International Security Assistance Force remains a multinational force, with 95 percent of its troops coming from NATO Allies or “Partner countries.”

Reeker said that NATO will run its operations in Afghanistan “much as it has managed other successful peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia.” According to Reeker, the Allies will exercise political control in the North Atlantic Council, while NATO’s military headquarters will provide military expertise for planning and operations.

The deputy spokesman added that NATO’s new role in Afghanistan demonstrates that the “revitalization of the Alliance is becoming a reality,” and that NATO will go “outside its traditional area of operations to meet threats wherever they may arise.”

According to Reeker, NATO’s leadership of the International Security Assistance Force also provides a “clear demonstration” of the international community’s commitment to security and stability in Afghanistan.

“The progress already made in Afghanistan would have been impossible without the strong leadership of the United States and the contributions of our coalition partners,” Reeker said. “Along with Operation Enduring Freedom and effective donor assistance, the International Security Assistance Force will continue to contribute to accelerated progress towards full implementation of the Bonn Accord and a prosperous, peaceful future for Afghanistan and its neighbors.”

In comments to reporters, Lakhdar Brahimi, Special Representative of United Nations Secretary General for Afghanistan, thanked the United States for its role in helping “the people of Afghanistan out of the nightmare they have lived through for 23 years.”

“And things are difficult, there are problems, but I think there is every reason to be optimistic with the commitment of the United States … and the commitment of the rest of the international community,” Brahimi said. “I think that we will help the people of Afghanistan stand on their own two feet and dispense with the kind of support that they now need.”

When asked if the International Security Assistance Force should be extended beyond Kabul, Brahimi said that the U.N. would welcome “a discussion on the expansion of ISAF or any other means of providing that support that I believe is necessary.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell added that the U.S. is committed to Afghanistan and is “looking at ways of accelerating our work with more resources, both resources in terms of money and other assets that we can put to the task of rebuilding the country.”

“We are still anxious to see if we can get through the constitutional process this fall with a new constitution and then looking toward elections next year, as called for in the Bonn agreement,” Powell said. “And that still remains our goal, a difficult goal to achieve, but it does remain our goal. And working with my colleague, I hope we’ll be able to achieve it.”

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