NATO's role in Kosovo
NATO has been leading a peace-support operation in Kosovo since June 1999 in support of wider international efforts to build peace and stability in the area.
Today, just under 5,000 troops from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), provided by 31 countries continue to work towards maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens and communities in Kosovo.
Throughout Kosovo, KFOR is cooperating and coordinating with the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and other international actors to support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo. In April 2013, Belgrade and Pristina reached an Agreement on Normalisation, which is helping to improve relations between both parties while giving new momentum to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans. NATO and KFOR stand ready to support the implementation of this agreement within its means and capabilities.
Over time, as the security situation has improved, NATO has been gradually adjusting KFOR’s force posture towards a smaller and more flexible force with fewer static tasks. All adjustments to force posture are decided by the North Atlantic Council (NAC) as the security situation on the ground evolves.
KFOR deployed into Kosovo on 12 June 1999, in the wake of a 78-day air campaign. This air campaign was launched by the Alliance in March 1999 to halt and reverse the humanitarian catastrophe that was then unfolding.
KFOR derives its mandate from United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244 of 10 June 1999 and the Military-Technical Agreement between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia. KFOR operates under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and, as such, is a peace enforcement operation.
Today, KFOR continues to help maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo, according to its mandate, which is to:
- deter renewed hostility and threats against Kosovo by Yugoslav and Serb forces;
- establish a secure environment and ensure public safety and order;
- demilitarize the Kosovo Liberation Army;
- support the international humanitarian effort; and
- coordinate with, and support, the international civil presence.
KFOR tasks have included assistance with the return or relocation of displaced persons and refugees; reconstruction and de-mining; medical assistance; security and public order; protection of patrimonial sites; border security; interdiction of cross-border weapons smuggling; implementation of a Kosovo-wide weapons, ammunition and explosives amnesty programme; weapons destruction; and support for the establishment of civilian institutions, law and order, the judicial and penal system, the electoral process and other aspects of the political, economic and social life of Kosovo.
Special attention continues to be paid to the protection of minorities. This includes regular patrols near minority enclaves, check points, escorts for minority groups, protection of heritage sites such as monasteries, and donations including food, clothes and school supplies.
On 12 June 2008, NATO agreed to start implementing additional tasks in Kosovo, i.e. assist in the standing down of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and in the establishment of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), as well as a civilian structure to oversee the KSF. The following tasks have been implemented in close coordination and consultation with the relevant local and international authorities:
- Stand-down of the Kosovo Protection Corps
The KPC was conceived as a transitional post-conflict arrangement, under the responsibility of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. Its mandate was to provide disaster-response services, perform search and rescue, provide a capacity for humanitarian assistance in isolated areas, assist de-mining and contribute to rebuilding infrastructure and communities.
The KPC ceased its operational activities on 20 January 2009 and was formally dissolved on 14 June 2009. In parallel, the Kosovo Security Force was developed to ensure that key capabilities were available for emergency situations.
- Stand-up of the Kosovo Security Force / NATO Liaison and Advisory Team
NATO has supervised the stand-up and training of a multi-ethnic, professional and civilian-controlled Kosovo Security Force. The KSF is a lightly armed volunteer force, with no heavy weapons such as tanks, heavy artillery or offensive air capability. It has primary responsibility for security tasks that are not appropriate for the police such as emergency response, explosive ordnance disposal, management of hazardous material, fire fighting and civil protection.
The first Kosovo-wide recruitment campaign for the KSF started on 21 January 2009 and focused on encouraging all minority communities in Kosovo to apply. The recruitment process was carried out in two official languages: Albanian and Serbian. Initial operational capability was reached in mid-September 2009, with some 1,500 personnel; full operational capability was declared by the North Atlantic Council on 9 July 2013, with approximately 2,200 active personnel. The KSF’s total strength is mandated to a maximum of 2,500 active personnel and 800 reservists.
In order to continue supporting the KSF, the Alliance established the NATO Liaison and Advisory Team (NLAT) in July 2013. The NLAT is distinct from KFOR and consists of approximately 35 military and civilian personnel. Based in Pristina, this body is charged with providing advice and support to the KSF at brigade level and above, focusing on staff capacity-building and training.
- Establish a civilian-led body to supervise the KSF / NATO Advisory Team
NATO assisted and continues to assist in establishing a civilian-led organisation that exercises control over the KSF. Primary responsibility for this task rests with NATO Headquarters in Brussels; KFOR is tasked to support the NATO Advisory Team that has been established in Pristina.
The Multinational Battle Groups (MNBG)
A Battle Group is a military unit at the level of a battalion, consisting of numerous companies. These companies are highly mobile, flexible and rapidly deployable to potential trouble spots all over Kosovo. There are currently two MNBGs:
- HQ MNBG East, located at Camp Bondsteel, located near Urosevac;
- HQ MNBG West, located at Camp Villagio Italia in Pec.
HQ KFOR continues to be located at Camp Film City, Pristina. In addition to the KFOR troops in Kosovo, NATO continues to maintain reserve forces ready to deploy if necessary.
KFOR comes under a single chain of command, under the authority of Commander KFOR (COMKFOR). COMKFOR reports to the Commander of Joint Force Command Naples (COM JFCN), Italy. The current COMKFOR is Major General Salvatore Farina. He assumed command of the Kosovo Force on 7 September 2013.
Former KFOR commanders
Lt. Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, UK A
09 Jun 1999 - 08 Oct 1999
Lt. Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, GE A
08 Oct 1999 - 18 Apr 2000
Lt. Gen. Juan Ortuño, SP A
18 Apr 2000 - 16 Oct 2000
Lt. Gen. Carlo Cabigiosu, IT A
16 Oct 2000 - 06 Apr 2001
Lt. Gen. Thorstein Skiaker, NO A
06 Apr 2001 - 03 Oct 2001
Lt. Gen. Marcel Valentin, FR A
03 Oct 2001 - 04 Oct 2002
Lt. Gen. Fabio Mini, IT A
04 Oct 2002 - 03 Oct 2003
Lt. Gen. Holger Kammerhoff, GE A
03 Oct 2003 - 01 Sep 2004
Lt. Gen. Yves de Kermabon, FR A
01 Sep 2004 – 01 Sep 2005
Lt. Gen. Giuseppe Valotto, IT A
01 Sep 2005 –01 Sep 2006
Lt. Gen. Roland Kather, GE A
01 Sep 2006 – 01 Sep 2007
Lt. Gen. Xavier Bout de Marnhac, FR A
01 Sep 2007 – 29 Aug 2008
Lt. Gen. Giuseppe E. Gay, IT A
29 Aug 2008 – 08 Sep 2009
Lt. Gen. Markus Bentler, GE A
08 Sep 2009 – 1 Sep 2010
Maj. Gen. Erhard Bühler, GE A
01 Sep 2010 – 08 Sep 2011
Maj. Gen. Erhard Drews, GE A
09 Sep 2011- 07 Sep 2012
Maj. Gen. Volker Halbauer, GE A
08 Sep 2012 – 06 Sep 2013
Maj. Gen. Salvatore Farina, IT A
07 Sep 2013 – 03 Sep 2014
UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244 was adopted on 10 June 1999 and on 12 June, the first elements of the NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, entered Kosovo. By 20 June, the withdrawal of Serbian forces was complete.
KFOR was initially composed of some 50,000 men and women from NATO member countries, partner countries and other non-NATO countries under unified command and control. By early 2002, KFOR was reduced to around 39,000 troops. The improved security environment enabled NATO to reduce KFOR troop levels to 26,000 by June 2003, then to 17,500 by the end of 2003.
An improved security situation
In recent years, the security situation has continued to improve steadily. As a result, on 11-12 June 2009, NATO Defence Ministers decided to gradually adjust KFOR’s force posture towards what is called a deterrent presence. At their informal meeting in Istanbul on 3-4 February 2010, NATO Defence Ministers were informed by the NATO Military Authorities that KFOR had successfully achieved the so-called Gate 1 in its transition to a deterrent presence, reducing the number of troops on the ground to some 10,200. The move to Gate 2, allowing for a total of approximately 5,000 troops was recommended by the NATO Military Authorities and authorised by the North Atlantic Council on 29 October 2010. Gate 2 was declared on 28 February 2011.
Any future decision on further reducing KFOR’s footprint in Kosovo will require the approval of the North Atlantic Council. Nations have been clear that any such decision should be dictated by continued positive conditions on the ground.
In a separate development, the improved security situation on the ground in Kosovo also allowed NATO to continue with the implementation of the so-called unfixing process: the gradual transfer of security for religious and cultural heritage sites under KFOR protection to Kosovo Police responsibility. By the end of 2013, KFOR had unfixed eight properties with Designated Special Status: the Gazimestan Monument, Gracanica Monastery, Zociste Monastery, Budisavci Monastery, Gorioc Monastery, the Archangel site, Devic Monastery, and the Pec Patriarchate. Only one designated site – the Decani Monastery – currently remains under fixed KFOR protection.
NATO’s support to the EU-facilitated dialogue
On 19 April 2013, Belgrade and Pristina reached an EU-facilitated First Agreement of Principles Governing the Normalisation of Relations; an implementation plan was agreed on 22 May 2013. NATO played an important role in securing the Agreement, and Allies continue to strongly support the accord. In support of the Agreement, Belgrade and Pristina have initiated a programme of high-level talks, hosted by the European Union. This dialogue remains key to solving the political deadlock between the two parties, and has helped improve relations between them. The dialogue has also given fresh momentum to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans. In June 2013, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations with Belgrade and negotiations with Pristina on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement; both processes are currently underway.
NATO continues to offer strong political support to the Belgrade-Pristina Agreement, and KFOR stands ready to support its implementation – by ensuring a climate of peace and security – within its current mandate.