Japan’s Commitment to Stability: Counterterrorism Efforts in Afghanistan

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Japan’s most observable counterterrorism effort was the implementation of special anti-terrorism laws in 2001. It allowed its SDF to cooperate with and support anti-terrorism activities. Since then, the SDF has supplied logistical support in combating terrorism in Afghanistan. In November 2001, Koizumi’s government also shipped the MSDF to the Indian Ocean to help the military operations of the US in Afghanistan. It started delivering transportation by its Air Self-Defence force in 2001 and provided fuel to the US in the Indian Ocean. Tokyo has also been assisting UN Security Council resolutions aimed at depriving terrorism worldwide. Japan has made comprehensive efforts to promote Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), and Disbanding of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) in Afghanistan. DDR has turned out to be more prosperous than expected.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was founded in 2001. It was authorised by the UN Security Council and has performed several operations in Afghanistan to help the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). ISAF wanted Japan to dispatch ground self-defence force helicopters for peacekeeping activities. Japan’s participation in the fight against terror – also called Operation Enduring Freedom – and ISAF was challenging due to its constitutional constraints, which prohibit it from engaging in warfare internationally.

Japan is actively concerned in the effort to control terrorist financing. It participates in anti-terrorist economic frameworks within the UN, and the G8 group of nations. Japan also made a requirement for military support to the US by passing a law in 2003 which included special actions for humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. The law was created to enable it to provide logistical backing for US forces employed in Operation Iraqi Freedom by dispatching the SDF. In 2003, Koizumi also approved sending 1,000 non-combatant SDF personnel to Iraq to assist in the reconstruction efforts. In 2015, Japan laid down a three-pillar reaction to global terrorism.

The upgrade of militancy and terrorism has also posed direct dangers to the Japanese people. Two Japanese citizens were decapitated by the Islamic State (IS) in 2015. In reaction to the incident, Prime Minister Abe reaffirmed his country’s political and financial responsibility to the coalition against IS. He stated, “The international community will not give in to terrorism and we have to make sure that we work together.”Japan also recognised counterterrorism as a top priority during the G7 Summit meeting in May 2016 held in Japan.

Japan’s Support for Afghanistan

After 9/11, the US-led multinational forces established massive air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan, which led to the fall of the Taliban-run Afghan administration. At the Bonn conference in 2001, Afghanistan and the global community came together to form a fresh government. The international community concerned itself with state-building and recognised the significance of providing support, with the hope that Afghanistan does not again evolve into a haven for terrorists. Consequently, a new Afghan management led by President Hamid Karzai began the tortuous method of nation-building, which required approval from the international community. The US hoped Japan to play a strong diplomatic role. Then US President George W. Bush was respectful of Japan’s role in the Afghan conflict in conveying intelligence and requested Japan to also recreate a role in operational areas.

Japan has conveyed its deep concern over the uncontrolled terrorist attacks in Kabul. In August 2018, a suicide attack happened at an education centre on the western side of Kabul (Dashte Barchi), generating numerous deaths and injuries. Japan voiced solidarity with the government of Afghanistan. Tokyo has ensured that it will continue to support the war-ravaged country to assure stability, delivering development aid, and humanitarian assistance.

One of the primary purposes of Japan’s continued support of Afghanistan has been to demonstrate solidarity with the US. The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security redrafted in 1960, grants the US the freedom to military bases in Japan in exchange for a US commitment to defend Japan in the possibility of an attack. Moreover, with President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out US troops from Afghanistan, it remains critical for Japan to extend its role in the region.


Japan has its economic interests as well. It wants to profit from the reserves of oil, gas, uranium and other minerals obtainable in Afghanistan and other Central Asian Republics. Afghanistan holds significance for Japan for its geo-political location as well.

Indeed, political instability in Afghanistan is damaging to global peace and a hindrance to trade with the Central Asian countries. Therefore, Japan ought to support efforts to ensure stable trade connections with Afghanistan and Central Asia. Japan took the first initiative to support Afghanistan in 1996, when its Ambassador to the UN at that time, Hisashi Owada, expressed interest in holding a peace conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo. He held informal discussions with Afghanistan’s warring sections to bring their leaders together to the negotiating table. Japan has delivered a total of US$5.791 billion for Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2001. Japan’s consent to Afghanistan has been recognised in three areas: helping the peace process, security association, and reconstruction and humanitarian assistance.

Since 2001, Japan has delivered important base access for the global processes of US military forces. It has delivered naval supply ships in the Arabian Sea. Since the collapse of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has been operating to establish a democratic government. To aid in these efforts, Japan shipped legal experts and observers to Kabul to oblige it in the formulation of a new Constitution and furnished financial support for the presidential and parliamentary elections. 

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