"The mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan is seen by many as a test of the alliance's political will and military capabilities. Since the Washington Summit in 1999, the allies have sought to create a 'new' NATO, capable of operating beyond the European theater to combat emerging threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan is NATO's first 'out-of-area' mission beyond Europe. The purpose of the mission is the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan. The mission has proven difficult because it must take place while combat operations against Taliban insurgents continue. Recent assessments of the situation in Afghanistan point to a rise in the overall level of violence due to increased Taliban military operations and an increase in terrorist-related activities. U.N. Security Council resolutions govern NATO's responsibilities in Afghanistan. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) faces formidable obstacles: shoring up a weak government in Kabul; using military capabilities in a distant country with rugged terrain; and rebuilding a country devastated by war and troubled by a resilient narcotics trade. NATO's mission statement lays out the essential elements of the task of stabilizing and rebuilding the country: train the Afghan army, police, and judiciary; support the government in counter-narcotics efforts; develop a market infrastructure; and suppress the Taliban. […]. Most observers predict that ISAF's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will require a long-term commitment from the Allies. The Obama Administration has made the conflict a policy priority."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33627