Ever since the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union thirty years ago, the country has repeatedly experienced bloodbaths and terror. The purpose of the operation is to enable the Afghan state to stand on its own feet. Field activities include political and diplomatic efforts along with a range of action to improve the military, police and civil administration. Several Swedish government agencies are cooperating in the Swedish operation.
Sweden has contributed to ISAF since the beginning of 2002. Originally, ISAF was tasked with assisting in maintaining security in the region around Kabul, the capital. At the end of March 2003 the UN mandate on which ISAF ’s operations are based was altered. A new UN resolution (1510) gives ISAF a greater role and its mandate was enlarged to apply to all of Afghanistan. ISAF then established Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in various areas. Initially Sweden contributed personnel to the British PRT in Mazar-e-Sharif.
In March 2006 Sweden took over the leadership of PRT Mazar-e-Sharif with responsibility for four provinces in northern Afghanistan. Since then responsibility for security has been gradually transferred to the Afghan authorities.
In 2012 the whole of the Swedish force in northern Afghanistan came under civilian leadership. At the same time the contribution was given a new name: Transition Support Team (TST). The TST consists of a civilian and a military unit. At that point the formal leadership of the Swedish involvement was transferred to the highest civilian representative in northern Afghanistan, Ambassador Henrik Landerholm, who is, however, not entitled to make military decisions.
The military part of the operation, the Task Force Northern Lights battle group, is still part of NATO’s ISAF Force. It is being led in northern Afghanistan by Regional Command North, headquartered at Camp Marmal outside Mazar-e-Sharif. Task Force Northern Lights also includes troops from Finland.
In 2013 a new transition will take place with the Swedish contribution forming part of a Nordic-Baltic cooperation along with Norway, Finland and Latvia. This new constellation is expected to be operational on 1 July 2013.