Afghanistan: New ISAF command

KABUL, 10 February (IRIN) - German Defence Minister Peter Struck announced on Monday that the new German-Dutch led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan had many challenges ahead. ISAF, for more than a year now, has played an important policing/security role in the capital Kabul only, despite pleas from the government and NGOs that its mandate be extended to other parts of the country.
Addressing Dutch and German troops at the command handover ceremony from Turkey, Struck said: "The environment in which you will have to work for the next six months will involve danger," adding that their mission was highly demanding.

"We have parts of Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Hikmatyar [fighters loyal to a former prime minister, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar], and that is a challenge, it is very difficult for our soldiers," the minister told IRIN in Kabul.

Turkish Gen Hakin Zurlo, who took over the ISAF command from Britain in June last year, has now handed over to his German successor, Lt-Gen Norbert Van Heyst, the force commander for the next six months.

Despite a huge car bomb explosion last year and a series of isolated rocket attacks, security in Kabul has improved since ISAF began its work. "The situation is proceeding towards normalcy in Kabul," the capital's police chief, Gen Basir Salangi, told IRIN at the handover ceremony, adding that the government and people of Afghanistan were more committed than ever to supporting efforts to bring about peace and security.


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