NATO's role in Kosovo

  • Last updated: 20 Nov. 2023 17:24

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.


Photo courtesy of KFOR


  • NATO has been leading a peace-support operation in Kosovo – the Kosovo Force (KFOR) – since June 1999.
  • KFOR was established when NATO’s 78-day air campaign against Milosevic’s regime, aimed at putting an end to violence in Kosovo, was over.
  • The operation derives its mandate from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) and the Military-Technical Agreement between NATO, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia.
  • KFOR’s original objectives were to deter renewed hostilities, establish a secure environment and ensure public safety and order, demilitarise the Kosovo Liberation Army, support the international humanitarian effort and coordinate with the international civil presence.
  • Today, KFOR continues to contribute towards maintaining a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and freedom of movement for all.
  • NATO strongly supports the Belgrade-Pristina EU-brokered Normalisation Agreement (2013).
  • The increased tensions in the region throughout 2023 have led NATO to temporarily deploy extra troops to ensure KFOR has the forces it needs to fulfil its United Nations (UN) mandate impartially.



KFOR's objectives

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 from the Military-Technical Agreement between NATO and the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia. KFOR operates under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and, as such, is a peace enforcement operation.

Today, KFOR consists of approximately 4,500 troops provided by 27 Allied and partner countries. It continues to help maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people and communities 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.

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 the KFOR force posture are decided by the North Atlantic Council as the security situation on the ground evolves. KFOR is also 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.


KFOR's tasks

Initial tasks

KFOR tasks have included and, in some cases, still include:

  • 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.

Additional tasks

On 12 June 2008, NATO agreed to start implementing additional tasks in Kosovo in coordination with relevant local and international authorities. It assisted 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. NATO supervised the stand-up and training of a multi-ethnic, professional and civilian-controlled KSF. The KSF is a lightly armed volunteer force. 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 KSF's total strength is mandated to a maximum of 2,500 active personnel and 800 reservists.


Command and structure of KFOR

A Regional Command (RC) is a military unit at the level of a regiment consisting of two battalions. One is a manoeuvre battalion that is highly mobile, flexible and rapidly deployable to potential trouble spots all over Kosovo. The second battalion is a non-kinetic unit that is responsible for monitoring and liaising with local civil actors (e.g. municipalities, institutions, ethnic groups) through its Liaison Monitoring Teams (LMTs).

There are currently two RCs:

  • HQ RC East, located at Camp Bondsteel, near Ferizaj/Urosevac;
  • HQ RC West, located at Camp Villaggio Italia in Peć/Pejë.

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 Maj. Gen. Özkan Ulutaş (Turkish Army). He assumed command of the Kosovo Force on 10 October 2023.


The evolution of NATO's role in Kosovo

KFOR deploys

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 the years following 2003, the security situation continued to improve steadily. As a result, on 11-12 June 2009, NATO Defence Ministers decided to gradually adjust KFOR's force posture towards a deterrent presence, designed to discourage any further hostilities. 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 decision on further adjusting KFOR's footprint in Kosovo requires the approval of the North Atlantic Council.

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.

Capacity-building support

In addition to the tasks assigned to KFOR, NATO also conducts capacity-building initiatives with the security organisations in Kosovo. These activities are run by the NATO Advisory and Liaison Team (NALT), which was created in 2016 following the merger of two entities: the NATO Advisory Team (NAT), created in 2008 to supervise the establishment of a civilian-led organisation of the Kosovo authorities to exercise civilian control over the KSF; and the NATO Liaison and Advisory Team (NLAT), which continued to support the KSF beyond the North Atlantic Council's declaration of the KSF's full operational capability in July 2013.

The NALT reports directly to the NATO International Staff. Currently, it has a team of about 45 military and civilian personnel from 13 Allied and partner countries. It provides practical assistance and advice to the security organisations in Kosovo in areas such as logistics, procurement and finance, force development and planning, as well as leadership development. In order to fulfil its mission, the Team is currently designed along three lines of development: Strategy & Plans, Operations, and Support.

The NALT also plays a key role in the implementation of the enhanced interaction with Kosovo that was approved by the North Atlantic Council in December 2016. This enhanced interaction focuses on important topics such as building integrity, cyber defence, public diplomacy and science.

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 (SAA). The SAA agreement was signed on 27 October 2015 and entered into force on 1 April 2016. 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. Additionally, KFOR coordinates closely with the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).

KFOR during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the coronavirus outbreak, the response from the institutions in Kosovo was quick and adapted, preventing the rapid spread of the virus. COMKFOR took the necessary measures to protect KFOR personnel from COVID-19, while ensuring the continuation of KFOR's core mission. Furthermore, KFOR provided assistance to the institutions in Kosovo, as well as to other international organisations. In particular, it allowed EULEX to share KFOR medical support and facilities for COVID-19 testing.

Allies reinforce KFOR

The increased tensions in the region throughout 2023 are of great concern to NATO. As such, KFOR is taking all necessary actions to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo and will continue to act impartially, in line with its UN mandate.

To reinforce the KFOR peacekeeping mission, in the autumn 2023, Allies in the North Atlantic Council approved a request by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe to temporarily deploy reinforcements in Kosovo, increasing the number of troops contributed by 27 NATO Allies and partners to well over 4,500. These forces will support KFOR’s enhanced presence and activity in northern Kosovo.

KFOR is the third responder to security incidents after the Kosovo Police and EULEX. The KFOR Commander maintains regular contact with all relevant stakeholders in Belgrade and Pristina, as well as EULEX, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the UN Mission to Kosovo and the diplomatic community.

NATO continues to support the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and to urge both sides to engage in it, as the only way to resolve outstanding issues and reach a solution that respects the rights of all communities. This is key for lasting security in Kosovo and stability in the region.


KFOR commanders in chronological order

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

Maj. Gen. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, IT A

03 Sep 2014 - 07 Aug 2015

Maj. Gen. Guglielmo Luigi Miglietta, IT A

07 Aug 2015 - 31 Aug 2016

Maj. Gen. Giovanni Fungo, IT A

01 Sep 2016 - 15 Nov 2017

Maj. Gen. Salvatore Cuoci, IT A

15 Nov 2017 - 28 Nov 2018

Maj. Gen. Lorenzo D'Addario, IT A

28 Nov 2018 - 19 Nov 2019

Maj. Gen. Michele Risi, IT A

19 Nov 2019 - 13 Nov 2020

Maj. Gen. Franco Federici, IT A

13 Nov 2020 - 15 Oct 2021

Maj. Gen. Ferenc Kajári, HU A

15 Oct 2021 - 10 Oct 2022

Maj. Gen. Angelo Michele Ristuccia, IT A

10 Oct 2022 - 10 Oct 2023

Maj. Gen. Özkan Ulutaş, TU A

10 Oct 2023 - present