Shannonwatch: Ireland likely to continue to participate in NATO-led Mission in Afghanistan

Ireland likely to continue to participate in NATO-led Mission in Afghanistan

It seems clear from the language used by the Minister for Defence this week in response to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly TD that the Government is planning to send further Irish soldiers to Afghanistan with the planned NATO follow-on mission. If they do that, the soldiers will be exposed to even greater danger than at present due to withdrawal of most of the NATO forces and the increased attacks by Afghan insurgents.

Shannonwatch is opposed to any such decision, and will make its position on this clear to the government. We encourage others to do the same, and hope that Dublin-based activists might even be able to make their opposition known through protests and placards outside the Dail. This needs to be done as soon as possible to influence the government decision so it is hoped that small daily protests could be undertaken at lunchtime, starting next week.

The parliamentary question was as follows:

To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 255 of 25 November 2014, if he will clarify the impression that the Defence Forces are considering sending soldiers to Afghanistan after 31 December 2014and that those Defence Forces personnel will be directly involved in training Afghanistan soldiers, in view of such an exercise being inappropriate for Irish personnel to be involved with; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The reply given by the Minister for Defence was:

Ireland has participated in the NATO-led UN mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002. Seven members of the Permanent Defence Force are currently serving in the mission headquarters in Kabul.

The ISAF mission is due to conclude and withdraw from Afghanistan on 31 December 2014, whereupon the Afghan National Security Forces will take over full responsibility for security within Afghanistan. NATO will lead a follow on training support operation in Afghanistan called Resolute Support Mission with effect from 01 January 2015. The NATO-led follow-on mission post December 2014 is a training support mission designed to support and develop the capacity of the Afghan National Defence Forces so as they can ensure the security of the Afghan population and its national governmental institutions following the withdrawal of ISAF.

The question of Ireland contributing to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan is currently under consideration and I propose to bring proposals to the Government in this regard shortly.
Should the Government decide that the Defence Forces will participate in this mission, the personnel will be deployed to the staff appointments in the Resolute Support Mission Headquarters in Kabul.

Since August 2003, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been conducting what it calls security operations in Afghanistan. At the end of 2014, ISAF will complete its mission but to quote the NATO website "support for the continued development of the Afghan security forces and institutions and a wider cooperation with Afghanistan will continue".

ISAF was established on Dec 5th 2001 as a result of the Bonn Agreement which was signed by some Afghan political figures and representatives of a few self-appointed "leading world powers". Over two weeks later there was an attempt to legitimise this mission at the UN Security Council.

Despite the fact that the mission is NATO-led and Ireland is not a member of NATO, it contributes seven personnel who operate in ISAF HQ. Irish troops can only serve on peace support missions if three conditions are met: a Government decision, Dáil approval and UN authorisation. Dáil authorisation is not required however when the contingent consists of less that 12 soldiers - hence the convenient participation of Ireland in a NATO-led mission without any discussion in the Dáil.

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