Today, some 5,000 troops from the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), provided by 31 countries, continue to contribute towards maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin.
Following the unilateral declaration of independence on 17 February 2008, the Alliance reaffirmed that KFOR shall remain in Kosovo on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244, unless the United Nations Security Council decides otherwise. In June 2008, NATO agreed to take on new tasks in Kosovo. These new tasks included the standing down of the Kosovo Protection Corps and the creation of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF) as an all-crisis voluntary, professional, multi-ethnic, lightly armed force with a mandate encompassing crisis response, assistance to civil authorities in responding to natural and other disasters and emergencies, explosive ordinance disposal and civil protection. These tasks, together with KFOR’s overall mandate, have not been affected by the ruling of the International Court of Justice on 22 July 2010: the advisory opinion of the Court on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence is that it did not violate international law, nor UNSCR 1244.
Throughout Kosovo, and bearing in mind its operational mandate, KFOR is cooperating with and assisting the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and other international actors, as appropriate, 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 will help to improve relations between both parties while giving new momentum to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans. NATO and, in particular, KFOR will stand ready to support the implementation of this latest agreement to the best of their ability within their current mandate.
Over time, as the security situation has improved, NATO has been gradually adjusting KFOR’s force posture towards a minimal presence: essentially a smaller force progressively relying more on flexibility and intelligence with fewer static tasks. The pace and level of successive troop reductions is decided by the North Atlantic Council (NAC) as the security situation on the ground evolves and in light of security conditions. This process is conditions-based and not calendar-driven.
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 UNSCR 1244 of 10 June 1999 and the Military-Technical Agreement (MTA) between NATO and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia. KFOR is operated under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and, as such, is a peace enforcement operation, which is more generally referred to as a peace support operation.
Initially, KFOR’s mandate was to:
deter renewed hostility and threats against Kosovo by Yugoslav and Serb forces;
establish a secure environment and ensure public safety and order;
demilitarise the Kosovo Liberation Army;
support the international humanitarian effort; and
coordinate with, and support, the international civil presence.
KFOR’s presence has been crucial in maintaining safety and security for all individuals and communities in Kosovo. Today, KFOR continues to contribute towards maintaining a safe and secure environment and the freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.
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; security of ethnic minorities; 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 the province.
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) and a civilian structure to oversee the KSF. These tasks are 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 (UNMIK). 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 (KSF) was developed to ensure that key capabilities were available for emergency situations.
Those KPC members not recruited into the KSF have been resettled, reintegrated or retired with dignity. A resettlement programme funded by a NATO Trust Fund is being implemented by a local partner non-governmental organisation, namely APPK (Employment Promotion Agency Kosovo), under the supervision of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
Stand-up of the Kosovo Security Force
NATO has supervised the stand-up and training of a multi-ethnic, professional and civilian controlled KSF.
The KSF is a lightly armed 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.
This professional, all-volunteer force was trained according to NATO standards and is placed under civilian-led, democratic control. 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 reached out across society and was carried out in two official languages: Albanian and Serbian. Training activities and courses started on 2 February 2009. The 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 (KSF’s total strength will not exceed 2,500 active personnel and 800 reservists).
NATO is continuing to support the KSF beyond the declaration of full operational capability through a NATO Liaison and Advisory Team (NLAT). The NLAT is distinct from KFOR and will consist of approximately 30 military and civilian personnel. Its role is to provide advice and support at brigade level of the KSF and above, in areas such as capacity building and training, leadership, or command and control. It will also facilitate the continued professional development of the KSF.
Establish a civilian-led body to supervise the KSF
NATO assisted and continues to assist in establishing a civilian-led organisation that exercises civilian 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.
Command and structure of KFOR
With the move to the so-called Transition Gate 2, KFOR has been restructured, reducing the number of Multinational Battle Groups to two. The decision to restructure was taken in October 2010, based on the security situation in Kosovo and the performance of the Kosovo police and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX).
Today’s Multinational Battle Groups (MNBG)
A Battle Group is a military organisation 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 two MNBGs, which constitute KFOR and are ready to react to any threatening situation:
HQ MNBG East, located at Camp Bondsteel, located near Urosevac in the eastern part of Kosovo;
HQ MNBG West, located at Camp Villagio Italia in Pec.
HQ KFOR continues to be located at Camp Film City, Pristina, and there are 12 other Camps to accommodate the companies of KFOR. In addition to the KFOR troops in Kosovo, NATO continues to maintain a reserve force 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.
Originally, KFOR was formed by four Multinational Brigades (MNB East, MNB Centre, MNB Northeast, MNB Southwest) and from June 2006, by five Multinational Task Forces (MNTF): Multinational Task Force (MNTF) Centre based in Lipljan; MNTF North based in Novo Selo; MNTF South based in Prizren; MNTF West based in Pec; and MNTF East based in Urosevac.
KFOR’s transition from Brigades to Task Forces was aimed at improving the effectiveness of the forces and their ability to operate flexibly throughout Kosovo without restriction. In addition, it placed more emphasis on intelligence-led operations, with MNTFs working closely with both the local police and the local population to gather information.
In February 2010, KFOR was restructured and the five Multinational Task Forces, which had been in place since June 2006, were succeeded by mission-tailored Multinational Battle Groups (MNBGs).
MNBG West; and
MNBG Centre, which also covered the KFOR Headquarters in Pristina.
These operated until October 2010 when the present configuration was put into place.
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 – Present