Pursuant to its obligations emanating from its membership in NATO and the EU, Hungary has, since 2003, been actively taking part in the efforts of the international community aimed at the stabilization of Afghanistan. Our goals and contributions are based on the concepts set out by the 2008 Afghanistan Compact and the Afghan National Development Strategy.

As our commitment over the years has gradually increased, it is necessary to plan ahead for the period 2010-2015. Centered on the components guiding our objectives, this document lays down the mid-term strategy for Hungary’s role in Afghanistan. These components are the military, the rule of law, and international development pillars. It is our belief that our activities are beneficial for the Afghan people, especially in Baghlan province.


The challenges faced by the Afghan government and the international community in Afghanistan are manifold. Decades of war have resulted in a weak central government, a very high rate of illiteracy, corruption and poverty in a society divided by ethnic and tribal rivalry. This is the environment of the operation of the international community.

NATO’s activity is primarily structured around the system of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), whose tasks include dealing effectively with the different regional needs in the various provinces, helping to curb the cultivation of crops fueling the drug trade, and assisting the central government in extending its reach throughout Afghanistan.

From the security perspective, the increase of attacks against government and international forces, the regular flow of new recruits joining the armed opposition and the uninhibited crossing of the Pakistani border have raised concerns about lack of sufficient troops on the ground, which in turn has raised the importance of training the Afghan military and police forces. In autumn 2009, this led to the creation of NATO Training Mission (NTM-A), which will play a crucial role in the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan.

However, only a legitimate government, backed by the genuine support of the Afghan people and producing visible results in battling corruption, drug trafficking and common criminality, can bring long lasting stability to Afghanistan. In order to help the Afghan government achieve these goals, the international community has to be clear about its expectations and also increase its civilian presence. Public opinion in Afghanistan towards NATO, EU and other international actors is also a key factor in this process. Therefore, we must lay more emphasis on the communication of our results and on the protection of the Afghan population during military operations.

The Hungarian presence in Afghanistan

Since Hungary has taken over the lead-nation role of the Baghlan PRT in October 2006, our bilateral relations with Afghanistan have improved significantly: Hungary reopened its embassy in Kabul and several meetings between high ranking officials of the two counties have taken place. Our diplomatic relations serve as the framework for our presence in Afghanistan. This presence is composed of military, rule of law and international development components, which are interconnected. Our military presence ensures the safe execution of our development projects, while our projects form the moral foundation of our military presence.

The constantly changing environment makes it necessary to regularly revise our goals and tools according to the changing needs. In order to increase the effectiveness of our efforts, we have chosen to focus our activity on Baghlan province; however, we believe that these activities also serve the development of Afghanistan in general.

Development activities are implemented both by civilians and the Hungarian military. The activities of the Civilian Representative in the PRT are supported by a local Development Advisor, acting as a liaison.

Hungary’s military presence has increased gradually, taking on several permanent and temporary roles. Besides the individual positions we occupy at the ISAF HQ, we lead a PRT and operate an OMLT and SOF in cooperation with the USA. In 2008/2009, Hungary also acted as the lead nation in the management of the Kabul International Airport for six months, while in 2009 we provided troops to the Election Support Force during the presidential elections. Hungary’s contribution will stay in tune to the constantly changing needs. We will maintain our presence, and consider further contributions in proportion to our capabilities.

Hungary considers the reform of the Afghan security sector and the building of governmental capacity to be of utmost importance. In this regard, our participation in the training of the Afghan National Police (ANP) through contributions to EUPOL and by our experts within the PRT is particularly important.

Our activities in the field of international cooperation and development are aimed at improving living standards and advancing economic and social development. In light of the limits of our financial resources, our focus is on the transfer of know-how, particularly in sectors such as agriculture, water management and education. Our basic philosophy guiding these activities is that locals must also take part in the development of their province: Hungarian projects designed by Hungarian NGOs and government offices are planned in coordination with local governments and are delivered by Afghan NGOs, thus creating employment in the process.

Strategic Environment

Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001 the international community has adopted several documents at summits and conferences reiterating the need for an international presence in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Obama administration and the Secretary General of NATO both place Afghanistan on the top of their international agendas. The goals and ambitions set out by the international community serve as guidance for all actors present in Afghanistan and call for enhanced cooperation between participating parties.

As a member of both the EU and NATO, Hungary deems it important that the efforts of these organizations be pursued in a coordinated manner without, however, assigning specific roles to one or the other. Ambitions must be based on a realistic assessment of the capacities of member states, especially in times of economic difficulties, while the setting of unrealistic and unreachable goals should be avoided. Driven by our responsibilities as a NATO member, Hungary’s military contribution will remain in line with international trends. We see our military presence in the context of its contribution to global, regional and local security, contributing to the fight against global terrorism and as a precondition for safe developmental activity. While continuing to deliver quick impact projects, adapting to the worsening security situation, which has also been felt in the north of Afghanistan in the past years, has meant that the focus of our military presence is shifting towards carrying out traditional military tasks.

Stability and development require not only physical but also legal security, which is demonstrated by the constantly increasing emphasis on the training of police and judicial experts. While the results may be less visible in the short term, police training is the only way to guarantee sustainable local security capacities. For this reason, Hungary has been spending one quarter of its development funds on local police training. In this area an improved cooperation between ISAF and EUPOL is necessary in order to meet the logistical needs of EUPOL: EUPOL requires the support of ISAF in the area of mobility within the country, and there is also a need for lodging EUPOL experts within the PRTs. Sharing the principles of many other approaches regarding the stabilization of Afghanistan, Hungary believes that there is a need to increase the non-military presence in the country. Based on this consideration, Hungary regularly revises its projects and contributions in the field of police training and broader security sector reform.

With regards to international development, our aim is to enable Afghan society of raising its living standards on its own through projects in the field of agriculture, education, health care and good governance. The transfer of know-how which parallels the competences of the Afghan population is a determining factor in achieving our objectives. Development projects must be increasingly implemented by NGOs, since their status and professional experience allows them to gain the trust of the population to an extent that military and government officials are not able to. Given our limited resources, efficient distribution of our funds is a key factor for success.

Regarding agriculture, Baghlan province has great potential for development, but the use of obsolete tools and technologies, and the lack of vocational know-how and proper infrastructure mean, that there is still much to do. Irrigation systems, flood protection, vocational training, technology transfer, community building and launching of small enterprises can bring the desired results.

Schooling is a major challenge all over Afghanistan. Although much has improved since the fall of the Taliban regime, a very high percentage of schools and students remain without proper infrastructure and textbooks, which in turn results in a high rate of unqualified manpower on the labor market and keeps salaries low. In consequence, the coordination of labor market demands and the development of the educational system must go hand in hand.

The poor state of health care services is rooted in similar symptoms (the lack of qualified personnel, vaccines, proper infrastructure and equipment takes its toll on the most fragile groups of the population: women and children) and requires a similar, comprehensive response. While trying to meet the broad spectrum of demands in Afghanistan, it is important not to excessively fragment the resources pledged for the stabilization of the country. Long-term and careful planning, impact studies, efficiency reviews and the involvement of third party funds will allow Hungarian development activity to contribute to the development of Baghlan and Afghanistan.