Nine years after the start of the Afghan war, Japan may soon be sending troops to contribute to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Japan is planning to send ten Self Defense Force medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, to Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan told U.S. President Barack Obama at their Nov. 13 meeting in Yokohama that Tokyo would “positively” consider sending SDF medical officers to Afghanistan.

The medics would be working as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, a multinational unit that has been deployed since 2001 to fight the Taliban and comprises troops from more than 40 countries, mainly from the United States, but also from Britain and Germany. (Link)

Early reports indicated that the Japanese contingent would not be affiliated with ISAF, but Prime Minister Kan seems to have changed his mind. This is probably a relief to the medical contingent — being part of ISAF means more coordination with other ISAF forces and hopefully better security. Ten unarmed doctors and nurses from a country that provides one billion dollars a year in aid to the Karzai government would be a very tempting target for the Taliban.

Japan will outrank, in personnel numbers, the following ISAF countries:

  • Luxembourg: 9
  • Ireland: 7
  • Iceland: 4
  • Austria: 3

Japan would still be behind:

  • Poland: 2,519
  • Republic of Korea: 246
  • Singapore: 38
  • Montenegro: 31
  • Ukraine: 16

It’s only ten people, but hey, it’s ten people more than China has in-country.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch