The NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan encompass about 13,500 troops, of which about 8,400 are members of US military assigned to NATO. NATO describes the Resolute Support as a "training, advice and assistance to the Afgan Security Forces".

My confusion centers around the newly announced US strategy of "killing terrorists" above all other activities. (which actually sounds more like a tactic rather than a strategy - regardless).

So is the NATO mission in Afghanistan under the command of the US President, or NATO?

And if it is a NATO mission, is the decision of strategy made by NATO Military Command or by (any) one of the participating nations?

  • Much like the Korean War was a UN mission, you can describe Afghanistan as a NATO mission: it's the US operating under the umbrella of some international community, while committing the vast majority of the fire power on the scene. Aug 22, 2017 at 21:02
  • Why must it be one or the other? U.S. troops in Afghanistan are under a U.S. chain of command and that chain of command works with its military allies through a process they've chosen to join.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 24, 2017 at 5:12

1 Answer 1


Up until 2014 it was a mission undertaken by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). ISAF was dominated by NATO, and if you look at the list of commanders, was dominated by American generals from 2007 to its dissolution in 2014. ISAF was led by NATO, but allowed non-NATO members such as Australia to participate. ISAF was not sponsored by NATO but by the United Nations itself under Resolution 1386, but in 2003 it became controlled by NATO. As the USA contributed the most money and personnel to ISAF, in practical terms it had a "controlling interest," so to speak.

However, the ISAF mission was ended in 2014. Today, Resolute Support is the name of the framework that was struck between NATO and Afghanistan and affirmed in UN Resolution 2189 to replace ISAF. It appears to be a kind of ISAF Round 2: it is a multinational force under the leadership of NATO that includes non-NATO members, yet as the US provides most of the money and personnel, the US has a controlling interest in how it conducts its business.

For an American troop on the ground, it means that you probably have an American local commander who eventually reports up to the NATO-sponsored commander of Resolute Force. You work under the framework of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Resolute Force and the GoA (Government of Afghanistan), and you work under the NATO rule book. You get a NATO medal for your service if you were in theater for over 30 days.

In summary, at the ground level NATO rules apply. Overall strategy is reflected by NATO leadership and affirmed by the UN. As the USA is such a huge member of NATO, it exerts a lot of influence on the entire chain.

  • very useful info. Can you clarify "exerts a lot of influence" ? Specifically I'm wondering if the newly-announced US strategy is developed in consultation with NATO, or since US is volunteering 62 percent of the troops they (the US Commander-in-chief) can dictate to NATO how to prosecute the mission.
    – BobE
    Aug 24, 2017 at 18:47

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