|NATO Approves Changes to KFOR and SFOR|
NATO Approves Changes to KFOR and SFOR
Source: NATO Press Release (2002)064. Brussels, Belgium, May 10, 2002.
NATO is adapting its military presence in the Balkans to reflect the improving security environment in the region. NATO's North Atlantic Council, after full consultation with the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) and Kosovo Force (KFOR) contributing nations, today approved a series of changes to the NATO-led SFOR and KFOR missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo which will introduce amore regional approach, increasing efficiency and allowing reductions in force numbers.
NATO's commitment to the security of the region remains as firm as ever. These changes reflect the success of International Community efforts, and those of political leaders in the region, which have led to a great improvement in the security situation in the Balkans. They are also the result of NATO’s continuing efforts to adapt its presence to best meet current requirements. In particular these changes will allow NATO forces to better contribute to International Community efforts to address regional issues such as refugee flows, border security, rule of law and extremism across all operational areas.
The changes follow recommendations from the Spring 2002 Six-Month Review by the NATO Military Authorities, aimed at taking a more regional approach to SFOR and KFOR operations. Since the first deployment of SFOR and KFOR, the security environment in the Joint Operations Area has improved considerably and the NATO-led missions have been crucial to the region's increasing stability.
In light of the evolving security environment it is now appropriate to create lighter, more mobile and flexible forces, that will not only be more cost effective, but will also be able to meet current challenges effectively. As a part of this process the NATO Military Authorities will develop areserve force concept to complement the Alliance's in place force posture. These changes will be implemented over the next 12 months and should be completed by mid-2003.
Although NATO is adopting a more regional approach where appropriate, it is important to realise that each operational area has its own unique qualities and security needs. Thus, distinct mandates for each of NATO’s missions will remain, with their specific tasks and objectives. At the same time, the new structures will enable SFOR and KFOR to meet remaining challenges more effectively and efficiently, especially at a regional level.
SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be reduced from 19000 troops to approximately 12000 by the end of 2002. KFOR in Kosovo will reduce the number of brigade headquarters, with the current troop level of 38000 cut by 4800. NATO and its allies in SFOR and KFOR remain committed to fulfilling their responsibilities to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in the Balkans.
The relationships we have established with other international organisations in the region also remain vital to the work of SFOR and KFOR. We will continue to work closely with these organisations to achieve our shared objectives of peace, stability, prosperity and respect for human rights.
Commenting on the changes, NATO's Secretary General, Lord Robertson, said, "These changes will help us build on success. Since we first sent forces to the Balkans much has changed and improved, and we are changing with them. What hasn't changed though is our determination to work with the people of the region to build peace and prosperity together. Make no mistake these forces will still be robust enough, tough enough and flexible enough to maintain a safe and secure environment".