Kosovo Force (KFOR)
How did it evolve?
The NATO-led Kosovo Force, or KFOR, deployed in the wake of a 78-day air campaign launched by the Alliance in March 1999 to halt and reverse the humanitarian catastrophe that was then unfolding. That campaign, which was NATO’s second, followed more than a year of fighting in the province and the failure of international efforts to resolve the conflict by diplomatic means.
The first elements of KFOR entered Kosovo on 12 June 1999. By 20 June, the withdrawal of Serbian forces was complete.
KFOR was initially composed of some 50 000 personnel from NATO member countries, Partner countries and non-NATO countries under unified command and control.
By the beginning of 2002, KFOR had been reduced to around 39000 troops.
Improvements in the security environment enabled NATO to reduce KFOR troop levels to around 26 000 by June 2003 and to 17 500 by the end of that year.
A setback in progress towards a stable, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo occurred in March 2004, when renewed violence broke out between Albanians and Serbs and KFOR troops were attacked. NATO contingency plans for such an eventuality enabled the rapid deployment of some 2500 additional troops to reinforce the existing KFOR strength.
At the 2004 Istanbul Summit, NATO heads of state and government condemned the renewed ethnic violence and reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to a secure, stable and multi-ethnic Kosovo.
NATO Defence Ministers agreed at their meeting in Brussels in December 2004 to maintain a robust KFOR profile during the year 2005.
In August 2005, the North Atlantic Council decided to restructure KFOR, replacing the four existing multinational brigades with five task forces. This change allowed for greater flexibility with, for instance, the removal of restrictions on the cross-boundary movement of units based in different sectors of Kosovo. The move from brigade to task force also placed more emphasis on intelligence-led operations, with task forces working closely with both the local police and the local population to gather information.
In 2006, NATO pledged to continue to provide a robust military presence as talks on the future status of Kosovo were lead by the UN. The Alliance has also promised to support the security provisions of any final settlement.
In December 2007 NATO Foreign Ministers agreed that KFOR shall remain in Kosovo on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, unless the Security Council decides otherwise. They also renewed their commitment to maintain KFOR’s national force contributions, including reserves, at current levels and with no new caveats.