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To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 8 June 2013, if he will confirm if Irish Defence Forces personnel will return home in October 2013 when the current ISAF mandate expires; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

-Mick Wallace

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 18th July, 2013.

REPLY   

Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002. On 25 June 2013, the Government agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2013, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence.

 On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The UN mandate for this mission was most recently renewed on 9 October 2012, and will fall to be renewed again in October this year.

 ISAF has a current strength of approximately 97,920 personnel drawn from 47 Countries. In March 2011, the transition process whereby the Afghan security forces would gradually take on more security responsibility from ISAF was launched. As of 18 June 2013, the final phase of the transition was instigated. Currently twenty-three (23) of the thirty-four (34) Afghan provinces are fully in transition. This process is due to be completed at the end of 2014, when ISAF’s mission will end. NATO will then lead a follow-on mission to continue to support the development of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) capacity.

No date for the withdrawal of Irish personnel has been fixed at this stage.  Planning for the drawdown of ISAF generally is currently ongoing and the withdrawal of the Defence Forces personnel will be coordinated within the context of the overall ISAF drawdown plan.  I would expect a phased drawdown of the ISAF headquarters, with Defence Forces personnel being withdrawn as the headquarters downsizes.

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