KFOR (5) - Norway's role as Lead Nation (text ed.)

KFOR (5) – Norway's role as Lead Nation

KFOR is conducting a NATO-led operation. Lieutenant General Skiaker takes up his post as Commander KFOR by virtue of his position as the NATO Commander at Joint Headquarters North located at Jåtta, Stavanger. Norway has therefore taken on the responsibility as Lead Nation.

Foreword by the Minister of Defence

As from 6 April 2001, attention will be focused on Norway’s role in the Balkans. Lieutenant General Thorstein Skiaker becomes the new Commander of the NATO-led force in Kosovo – KFOR. For the coming 6 months he will be faced with a challenging and high-profile task. KFOR is a large and complex military force of approx. 42 000 personnel from a total of 39 countries. The mission entrusted to KFOR is vitally important but also fraught with risk. The security situation in Kosovo is unstable and there is a constant danger that the conflict may spread.

KFOR is conducting a NATO-led operation. Lieutenant General Skiaker takes up his post as Commander KFOR by virtue of his position as the NATO Commander at Joint Headquarters North located at Jåtta, Stavanger. Norway has therefore taken on the responsibility as Lead Nation. This does not mean that Norway is controlling KFOR or running the operation.

Norway’s task as Lead Nation is to prepare the way for Lieutenant General Skiaker to be able to carry out his demanding assignment as Commander KFOR. We do this by placing a range of essential resources at his disposal.

I have no doubt that Lieutenant General Skiaker and his staff will meet the challenges that face them in an exemplary manner with courage and distinction.

It is important that Norway shows ability and will to make substantial contributions to international operations. In this way we will contribute to the management and, hopefully, the resolution of serious international conflicts. At the same time this will in turn strengthen the will of our allies to help Norway should the need arise. The part we play in the Balkans also reflects our desire to contribute to the promotion of security and stability in Europe. A further important benefit is that our officers and men and women of the Armed Forces gain valuable experience from participation in demanding military operations. This in turn enhances the Armed Forces’ ability to perform in all types of operations.

Lieutenant General Skiaker, our forces in KFOR and all Norwegian men and women who contribute in international operations are making an immeasurably valuable contribution both to the cause of peace and for Norway.

KFOR – Norwegian Commander

KFOR (5) – Norwegian Commander and Norway’s national responsibility

Lieutenant General Thorstein Skiaker takes over command of KFOR 5th contingent on 6 April 2001. The NATO-led military force in Kosovo now numbers approx.

42 000. KFOR’s mission is based on a UN mandate set out in Security Council Resolution 1244. When KFOR was established in 1999, NATO’s Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) Headquarters was nominated as KFOR headquarters with Lieutenant General Michael Jackson of the British Army in command. Since then the core staff of the KFOR Headquarters has been drawn from one or two of the existing NATO Headquarters. The NATO Council decided on

24 July 2000 that the core staff of the KFOR Headquarters for the forthcoming (fifth) period of six months from 6 April 2001 should be provided from NATO’s Northern Region. Consequently, the core staff of the KFOR Headquarters has been drawn from the NATO Joint Sub-Regional Command Headquarters in Karup, Denmark (JSRC NORTHEAST) and at Jåtta, Norway (JSRC NORTH).

KFOR is led by NATO – Norway’s responsibility as Lead Nation

It is important to underline that NATO itself leads the KFOR operation. When a new KFOR Headquarters is set up, a so-called Lead Nation is nominated. On 8 August 2000, following consultations between Norway and Denmark, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) nominated Lieutenant General Skiaker as Commander KFOR (5) and Norway as Lead Nation.

NATO’s 19 member states are represented on the North Atlantic Council which is the Alliance’s highest decision-making authority. Commander KFOR is subordinated to the Commander-in-Chief Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH), which again is subordinated to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). Norway’s responsibility as Lead Nation is essentially limited to ensuring that Commander KFOR is able to carry out his demanding task in the best way possible.

Norway’s contribution to KFOR (5)

Norwegian personnel are included in the KFOR (5) Headquarters staff by virtue of the posts they occupy at the NATO Headquarters at Jåtta. The NATO Headquarters at Jåtta and Karup have not provided all the members of the core staff and so Norway is providing additional personnel for the KFOR (5) Headquarters on a national basis. Norway is also providing a range of other services required by the Commander KFOR. These services include transport helicopters, combat photography, a cartographic service, medical and ambulance teams, sentries, a translation service and personal security arrangements. Overall some 200 Norwegian officers and other ranks will be serving in connection with Norway’s responsibilities as Lead Nation for KFOR (5), in addition to the Norwegian battalion (and support units), which already form part of KFOR (a total of some 1200).

It is usual for the Lead Nation to place an operational reserve force at the disposal of the Commander KFOR. This is a reserve intended for use in situations that require a rapid response. Norway now leads such a force, which has been named Task Force Viking. This force is lead by the commanding officer of the Norwegian KFOR Battalion (NORBN) and consists mainly of a Norwegian infantry company (about 200 men) and a British cavalry squadron.

Geographic overview

Background for NATO's involvement

Background for NATO's involvement

NATO's air offensive (Operation Allied Force) in Serbia started 23 March 1999 and ended 10 June the same year. After 77 days of air offensive NATO's European Commander in Chief, General Wesley Clark (SACEUR) confirmed the Serb Forces withdrawal from Kosovo.

The Military Technical Agreement (MTA)

The withdrawal of forces from Kosovo was in accord with the Military Technical Agreement concluded between NATO and Yugoslavia (FRY) on 9 June 1999. The Agreement was signed by Lieutenant General Michael Jackson on behalf of NATO, and Colonel General Svetozar Marjanovic on behalf of Yugoslavia and Serbia. The Military Technical Agreement deals with the Serb withdrawal and KFOR’s role in Kosovo. The Agreement provided for a 5 kilometer wide Ground Safety Zone (GSZ) and a 25 kilometer wide Air Safety Zone (ASZ) along Kosovo’s border with Yugoslavia. These zones were established to rule out the possibility of direct contact between Serb forces and KFOR.

UN Security Council Resolution 1244

On 10 June 1999 the UN Security Council adopted a Resolution (UNSCR 1244) outlining the principles for a political solution to the conflict in Kosovo, including the following:

•an immediate end to violence and repression in Kosovo

•the withdrawal of all military, police and paramilitary forces

•the deployment in Kosovo of international civilian and military presence

•NATO being given a central role in the military presence

•the establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo

•the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons

•the start of a political process towards substantial self-government for Kosovo

•disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups

•a comprehensive plan for the economic development of the region

Kosovo Force – KFOR

The UN Security Council, in adopting Resolution 1244, approved the establishment of a military presence in Kosovo. The purpose was to deter the parties from resuming the conflict, to assist in the demilitarisation of the armed Albanian groups and to prepare the way for the return of refugees. The core task of KFOR in making such preparations is to ensure that the security situation in Kosovo is satisfactory.

Following adoption of UNSCR 1244 the NATO Council prepared for the rapid deployment of a security force (Operation Joint Guardian). The first units arrived in Kosovo on 12 June 1999. The deployment of this force, which was given the name Kosovo Force (KFOR), was linked to the withdrawal of the Serb forces as envisaged in the Military Technical Agreement. On 20 June 1999 this withdrawal had been completed and KFOR was in place in Kosovo. KFOR currently has a strength of approximately 42 000. It is a NATO-led operation but with substantial contributions from other nations. The participating forces are drawn from a total of 39 nations including Russia. The force is led by Commander KFOR who has his headquarters in Pristina.

Norway’s contribution to KFOR and Kosovo

Since the autumn of 1999 a Norwegian infantry battalion has formed part of KFOR. This battalion (NORBN) now numbers some 1000 personnel and has its headquarters just outside Pristina. NORBN is responsible for security in three municipalities to the west of Pristina. The battalion is split between four local bases. Norway also has a base outside Skopje in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The commander of the national contingency is based here together with a Norwegian logistic section. The overall budget for Norway’s contribution to international operations in 2001 is NOK 1922 million. By far the largest single budget item is Norway’s force contribution to KFOR.

Norway also provides support for civilian projects in the region. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has allocated NOK 105 million for projects in Kosovo in 2001. These funds are divided between humanitarian projects, democratisation, infrastructure and institutional strengthening. Norwegian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are making a very important contribution to the wide-ranging and difficult work in Kosovo.

KFOR’s cooperation with other international organisations

The UN has established a mission, the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). UNMIK oversees the interim administration of Kosovo while also organising humanitarian activities and the work of strengthening democratic institutions. The UN Security Council requested on 10 June 1999 the Secretary General to nominate a special representative, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG), as UNMIK Head of Mission. The first SRSG was Mr. Bernhard Kouchner. Today Mr. Hans Hækkerup, a former Minister of Defence for Denmark, is the SRSG.

The tasks in Kosovo are many. There are a number of organisations participating in the wide-ranging work being done to improve living conditions in the area. KFOR places strong emphasis on cooperation with international agencies and NGOs. The largest international organisations engaged in Kosovo are the UN (UNMIK and UNHCR – the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). KFOR is working closely with all these organisations. For example there is increasingly close coordination between KFOR and UNMIK where military and police contributions to security operations are concerned. KFOR has also provided UNHCR with transport for aid supplies and with assistance in connection with major building projects for the rehousing of returning refugees.

The current situation in the region


In Kosovo the situation continues to suffer from ethnic antagonism and widespread crime. The ethnic Serb element of the population is concentrated in the three northernmost municipalities and in individual enclaves elsewhere in the area. Mitrovica is divided on ethnic lines and remains a constant source of friction and antagonism. The central question mark over the direction of development is the future status of Kosovo itself. All the Kosovo Albanian parties want independence for Kosovo while Yugoslavia, Serbia and the majority of the Kosovo Serb element of the population want Kosovo to remain part of Yugoslavia.

Local elections were held in Kosovo on 28 October 2000. These elections were boycotted by the Kosovo Serbs. Election day itself passed without violence with very high turn-out by the Kosovo Albanians. The moderate Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by Ibrahim Rugova, won a majority in 22 out of 28 municipalities. This is an encouraging sign for future development in Kosovo.

There is a risk that the conflict between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo may spread to neighbouring countries. Over recent months there have been armed clashes between Albanians and Serb security forces in the Presevo Valley in Southern Serbia and between Albanians and Macedonian security forces in the northern parts of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Southern Serbia

The conflict in the Presevo Valley in Southern Serbia has the potential to destabilise Kosovo and its relations with Yugoslavia and Serbia. Under the terms of the Military Technical Agreement (MTA) the presence of Yugoslav military forces is prohibited within a 5 kilometre wide demilitarised Ground Safety Zone along Kosovo’s border with Yugoslavia (see map). Albanian extremists have made use of this area in order to organise armed resistance to the Serb authorities in the region.

The conflict stems from a number of underlying causes and motives. It is probable that it is the future status of Kosovo that forms the real core of the conflict, but the Albanian groups are also motivated by the conditions suffered by Albanians living in this area.

On 8 March 2001 the NATO Council decided to prepare for the phased return of Yugoslav forces to the Safety Zone in an attempt to re-establish control in the area. The return of Serb forces is being combined with confidence-building economic and social measures and an international presence in the form of observers. Efforts are also being made to bring about negotiations between the Albanian and Serbian sides.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is an ethnically divided community. Although the majority of the inhabitants are of Slavic extraction, the Albanian minority comprises a considerable part of the population. The Albanian community is concentrated in the north towards the borders with Albania, Kosovo and Serbia. The population is divided geographically, ethnically and linguistically. In the wake of the war in Bosnia there was apprehension in the international community that there could be a new civil war in this part of the region because of the divided population. The Albanian minority has become slightly better represented in recent years and the government now includes an Albanian party. The army and the police, however, remain predominantly Slavic.

There have been a number of encounters between armed Albanian groups and Macedonian security forces in northern parts of the country. Several smaller groups of Albanian fighters, at least partly politically motivated, have been identified. The Albanian groups have put forward demands for increased rights for the Albanian population. There is a danger that the activities of the armed Albanian groups and the reactions of the Macedonian security forces will lead to a split in the population.

NATO has expressed its support for the government in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the UN has condemned the use of arms by the groups of Albanian fighters. KFOR has no mandate to interfere in the conflict. KFOR has, however, tightened up checks at the border with Kosovo in an attempt to obstruct the cross-border activities of the Albanian groups.