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NATO assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in August 2003.

At its Lisbon summit in November 2010, NATO agreed gradually to handover security responsibilities to Afghan National Security Forces by the end of 2014. At its summit in Chicago in May 2012, the Alliance confirmed ISAF’s mission will end on 31 December 2014. It also mapped out the transition of security for Afghanistan from ISAF to Afghan National Security Forces. Specifically, it set the goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for security nation-wide by mid-2013.

Between now and the end of ISAF’s operation at the end of 2014, ISAF will gradually shift from a combat role to a training and assistance role. Forces will be gradually drawn down in the intervening period – individual countries are setting their own withdrawal plans within the overall framework of the 2014 end-date. Altogether there are nearly 129,000 personnel from 50 countries currently serving in ISAF.

The Government says British troops will move out of a combat role by the end of 2014 but will retain a combat capability until then. The British presence will be reduced by 500 to 9,000 personnel by the end of 2012. The Prime Minister has said the speed of further reductions between now and the end of 2014 will be “in accordance with conditions on the ground.”

There are five phases of the transition. The first was completed in 2011 and the second and third are underway. 75% of the Afghan population live in areas covered by the first three phases of transition. The fifth and final phase is not expected to be announced until mid-2013.

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