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Kosovo Force

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Kosovo Force
The emblem of KFOR, which contains the Latin and Cyrillic scripts.
Founded11 June 1999; 25 years ago (1999-06-11)
RoleNATO peacekeeping
Size4,443 military personnel[1]
Part of NATO
EngagementsYugoslav Wars[2]
CommanderMajor general Özkan Ulutaş, Turkish Armed Forces
Deputy CommanderBrigade-general József Szpisják, Hungarian Ground Forces
Chief of StaffBG John Bozicevic, US Army
Command Sergeant MajorPrimo luogotenente q.s. Marcello Carlo Pagliara, Italian Army

The Kosovo Force (KFOR) is a NATO-led international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.[2] Its operations are gradually reducing until Kosovo's Security Force, established in 2009, becomes self-sufficient.[3]

KFOR entered Kosovo on 12 June 1999,[4] one day after the United Nations Security Council adopted the UNSC Resolution 1244. At the time, Kosovo was facing a grave humanitarian crisis, with military forces from Yugoslavia in action against the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in daily engagements. Nearly one million people had fled Kosovo as refugees by that time, and many permanently did not return.[3]

KFOR is gradually transferring responsibilities to the Kosovo Police and other local authorities. Currently, 28 states contribute to the KFOR, with a combined strength of approximately 3,800 military personnel.[5]

The mission was initially called Operation Joint Guardian. In 2004, the codename for the mission was changed to Operation Joint Enterprise.


Map of the KFOR's sectors in 2002.

KFOR focuses on building a secure environment and guaranteeing the freedom of movement through all Kosovo territory for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origins, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244.[3]

The Contact Group countries have said publicly that KFOR will remain in Kosovo to provide the security necessary to support the final settlement of Kosovo authorities.[6]


KFOR Task Forces, 2006.

KFOR contingents were grouped into five multinational brigades and a lead nation designated for each multinational brigade.[7] All national contingents pursued the same objective to maintain a secure environment in Kosovo.

In August 2005, the North Atlantic Council decided to restructure KFOR, replacing the five existing multinational brigades with five task forces, to allow for greater flexibility with, removing restrictions on the cross-boundary movement of units based in different sectors of Kosovo.[6] Then in February 2010, the Multinational Task Forces became Multinational Battle Groups, and in March 2011, KFOR was restructured again, into just two multinational battlegroups; one based at Camp Bondsteel, and one based at Peja.[8]

In August 2019, the KFOR structure was streamlined. Under the new structure, the former Multinational Battlegroups are reflagged as Regional Commands, with Regional Command-East (RC-E) based at Camp Bondsteel, and Regional Command-West (RC-W) based at Camp Villaggio Italia.

Structure 2023[edit]

Contributing states[edit]

German Armed Forces KFOR soldiers patrol southern Kosovo in 1999.
Italian Army KFOR soldier protecting Serb civilians in Orahovac during the 2004 unrest.
Turkish Land Forces KFOR soldiers in riot training (2010).
KFOR-MSU Carabinieri with two RG-12 during a crowd and riot control exercise (2019).

At its height, KFOR troops consisted of 50,000 men and women coming from 39 different NATO and non-NATO nations. The official KFOR website indicated that in 2008 a total 14,000 soldiers from 34 countries were participating in KFOR.[10] The following list shows the number of troops which have participated in the KFOR mission. Most of the force has been downsized since 2008; current numbers are reflected here as well:[11][12]

Country Membership Strength
 Albania Yes No 90
 Armenia No No 58
 Austria No Yes 289
 Bulgaria Yes Yes 300[14]
 Canada Yes No 5
 Croatia Yes Yes 151
 Czech Republic Yes Yes 37
 Denmark Yes Yes 35
 Finland Yes Yes 59
 France[15] Yes Yes 2
 Germany Yes Yes 99
 Greece Yes Yes 110
 Hungary Yes Yes 365
 Ireland No Yes 13
 Italy Yes Yes 1,322
 Latvia Yes Yes 141
 Lithuania Yes Yes 1
 Moldova No No 41
 Montenegro Yes No 2
 North Macedonia Yes No 65
 Poland Yes Yes 210
 Romania Yes Yes 65
 Slovenia Yes Yes 103[16]
 Sweden Yes Yes 2
  Switzerland No No 175
 Turkey Yes No 352
 United Kingdom Yes No 45
 United States Yes No 572[17]
28 22 18 4,443
Country Membership Year of withdrawal
 Argentina No No 2006[18]
 Azerbaijan No No 2008[19][20]
 Belgium Yes Yes 2010[21]
 Estonia Yes Yes 2018[22]
 Georgia No No 2008[23]
 Morocco No No 2014[24]
 Netherlands Yes Yes 2017[25]
 Norway Yes No 2020[26]
 Luxembourg Yes Yes 2016[27]
 Portugal Yes Yes 2021[28][29]
 Russia No No 2003[30]
 Spain Yes Yes 2009[31]
 Slovakia Yes Yes 2010[32]
 Ukraine No No 2022[33]
 United Arab Emirates No No 2001[34]

KFOR commanders[edit]

  1. Sir Michael Jackson (United Kingdom, 10 June 1999 – 8 October 1999)
  2. Klaus Reinhardt (Germany, 8 October 1999 – 18 April 2000)
  3. Juan Ortuño Such [es] (Spain, 18 April 2000 – 16 October 2000)
  4. Thorstein Skiaker [no] (Norway, 6 April 2001 – 3 October 2001)
  5. Marcel Valentin [fr] (France, 3 October 2001 – 4 October 2002)
  6. Fabio Mini [it] (Italy, 4 October 2002 – 3 October 2003)
  7. Holger Kammerhoff [de] (Germany, 3 October 2003 – 1 September 2004)
  8. Yves de Kermabon [fr] (France, 1 September 2004 – 1 September 2005)
  9. Giuseppe Valotto [it] (Italy, 1 September 2005 – 1 September 2006)
  10. Roland Kather [de] (Germany, 1 September 2006 – 31 August 2007)
  11. Xavier de Marnhac (France, 31 August 2007 – 29 August 2008)
  12. Giuseppe Emilio Gay [it] (Italy, 29 August 2008 – 8 September 2009)
  13. Markus J. Bentler [de] (Germany, 8 September 2009 – 1 September 2010)
  14. Erhard Bühler (Germany, 1 September 2010 – 9 September 2011)
  15. Erhard Drews [de] (Germany, 9 September 2011 – 7 September 2012)
  16. Volker Halbauer [de] (Germany, 7 September 2012 – 6 September 2013)
  17. Salvatore Farina (Italy, 6 September 2013 – 3 September 2014)
  18. Francesco Paolo Figliuolo (Italy, 3 September 2014 – 7 August 2015)
  19. Guglielmo Luigi Miglietta [it] (Italy, 7 August 2015 – 1 September 2016)
  20. Giovanni Fungo [it] (Italy, 1 September 2016 – 15 November 2017)
  21. Salvatore Cuoci (Italy, 15 November 2017 – 28 November 2018)
  22. Lorenzo D'Addario (Italy, 28 November 2018 – 19 November 2019)
  23. Michele Risi (Italy, 19 November 2019 – 13 November 2020 )
  24. Franco Federici (Italy, 13 November 2020 – 15 October 2021)
  25. Ferenc Kajári (Hungary, 15 October 2021 – 14 October 2022 )
  26. Angelo Michele Ristuccia (Italy, 14 October 2022 – 10 October 2023 )
  27. Özkan Ulutaş (Turkey, 10 October 2023 – present)

Note: The terms of service are based on the official list of the KFOR commanders[35] and another article.[36]

Kosovo peacekeeping[edit]

Marines from the U.S. provide security for Canadian policemen as they investigate a mass grave in July 1999.
KFOR-MSU Carabinieri patrol in Mitrovica near the New Bridge (2018).


On 9 June 1999 the Military Technical Agreement or Kumanovo Agreement between KFOR and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia was signed by NATO General Sir Mike Jackson and Yugoslavia Colonel General Svetozar Marjanovic concluding the Kosovo War. This agreement outlined a rapid withdrawal of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Forces from Kosovo, assigning to the KFOR Commander the airspace control over Kosovo and pending the later United Nations Security Council Resolution's approval, the deployment of KFOR to Kosovo.[37] On 10 June 1999 the United Nations Security Council adopted the UNSC Resolution 1244 authorizing the deployment in Kosovo of an international civil and security presence for an initial period of 12 months, and to continue thereafter unless the UNSC decides otherwise. The civil presence was represented by the United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK), while the security presence was led by KFOR.[38]

Following the adoption of UNSCR 1244, General Jackson, acting on the instructions of the North Atlantic Council, made immediate preparations for the rapid deployment of the security force (Operation Joint Guardian), mandated by the United Nations Security Council. The first NATO-led elements entered Kosovo at 5 a.m. on 12 June. On 21 June, the UCK undertaking of demilitarization and transformation was signed by COMKFOR and the Commander in Chief of the UCK (Mr. Hashim Thaci), moving KFOR into a new phase of enforcing the peace and supporting the implementation of a civil administration under the auspices of the United Nations.[7]

Within three weeks of KFOR entry, more than half a million out of those who had left during the bombing were back in Kosovo. However, in the months following KFOR deployment, approximately 150,000 Serbs, Romani and other non-Albanians fled Kosovo while many of the remaining civilians were subjected to violence and intimidation from ethnic Albanians.[39]

October 28, 2000 the first Municipal Assembly Elections were held. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe(OSCE) announced that approximately 80% of the population participated in this vote for local representatives. The final results were certified by the Special Representative for Kosovo of the UN Secretary-General, Bernard Kouchner, on 7 November.[40]

KFOR was initially composed of 40,000 troops from NATO countries. Troop levels were reduced to 26,000 by June 2003, then to 17,500 by the end that year. Combat troops were reduced more than support troops. KFOR tried to deal with this by transferring tasks to UNMIK and the Kosovo Police Service (KPS), but UNMIK was also reducing its number of international police, and KPS were not numerous enough or competent enough to take over from KFOR.

The 2004 unrest in Kosovo was the worst ethnic violence since 1999, leaving hundreds wounded and at least 14 people dead. On 17 and 18 March 2004, a wave of violent riots swept through Kosovo, triggered by two incidents perceived as ethnically motivated acts. The first incident, on 15 March 2004, an 18-year-old Serb was shot near the all Serb village of Čaglavica, near Pristina.[41][42] On 16 March, three Albanian children drowned in the Ibar River in the village of Čabar, near the Serb community of Zubin Potok. A fourth boy survived. It was speculated that he and his friends had been chased into the river by Serbs in revenge for the shooting of Ivić the previous day, but this claim has not been proven.[43] According to Human Rights Watch, the violence in March 2004 left 19 dead, 954 wounded, 550 homes destroyed, twenty-seven Orthodox churches and monasteries burned, and leaving approximately 4,100 Serbs, Roma, Ashkali (Albanian-speaking Roma), and other non-Albanian minorities displaced. Nineteen people, eight Kosovo Serbs and eleven Kosovo Albanians, were killed and over a thousand wounded-including more than 120 KFOR soldiers and UNMIK police officers, and fifty-eight Kosovo Police Service (KPS) officers.[44]

The 10 February 2007 protest in Kosovo resulted in 2 deaths and many injuries. A crowd of ethnic Albanians in Pristina protested against a UN plan, also known as the Ahtisaari Plan, they felt fell short of granting full independence for Kosovo. The proposals, unveiled 2 February, recommended a form of self-rule and was strongly opposed by Serbia. The UN Security Council did not endorse the plan.[45][46]

On February 17, 2008 unrest followed Kosovo's declaration of independence . Some Kosovo Serbs opposed to secession boycotted the move by refusing to follow orders from the central government in Pristina and attempted to seize infrastructure and border posts in Serb-populated regions. There were also sporadic instances of violence against international institutions and governmental institutions, predominantly in North Kosovo. After declaring independence, the Kosovo government introduced new customs stamps, a symbol of their newly declared sovereignty. Serbia refused to recognize the customs stamps which led to the de facto prohibition of both direct import of goods from Kosovo to Serbia, as well as transit to third countries. Goods from Serbia, however, could still be freely imported into Kosovo.[47][48] Pursuant to the Statement by the President of the Security Council on 26 November 2008 (S/PRST/2008/44), UNMIK was restructured and its rule of law executive tasks were transferred to (EULEX). EULEX maintains a limited residual capability as a second security responder and provides continued support to Kosovo Police's crowd and riot control capability.[49][48]

The 25 August 2009 Pristina protests resulted in vehicle damages and multiple injuries.

On 22 July 2010, the International Court of Justice delivered its advisory opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence declaring that "the adoption of the declaration of independence of the 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law because international law contains no 'prohibition on declarations of independence'," nor did the adoption of the declaration of independence violate UN Security Council Resolution 1244, since this did not describe Kosovo's final status, nor had the Security Council reserved for itself the decision on final status.

20 July 2011 Kosovo banned all imports from Serbia and introduced 10 percent tax for imports from Bosnia as both countries blocked exports from Kosovo.[50] On 26 July 2011, a series of confrontations in North Kosovo began with a Kosovo Police operation to seize two border outposts along the Kosovo Serbia border and consequent clashes continued until 23 November. The clashes, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries, were over differences between who would administer the border crossings between Kosovo and Serbia along with what would happen with the revenue collected from the customs and removal of roadblocks to secure freedom of movement. On 3 September 2011, a deal to unblock the impasse between Serbia and Kosovo over exports was struck at EU-led negotiations in Brussels. Serbia agreed to accept goods marked “Kosovo Customs”, while Pristina gave up including state emblems, coats of arms, flags, or use of the word “republic” allowing Kosovo to interpret the label as referring to the customs of independent Kosovo, whereas Serbia could see it as a provincial customs label.[51]

On 14 and 15 February 2012, an advisory referendum on accepting the institutions of the Republic of Kosovo was held in North Kosovo. 1 June 2012 Kosovo Serbs and a KFOR soldier were wounded when peacekeepers tried to dismantle Serb barricades, among the last on major roads yet to be dismantled, blocking traffic.[52]

On 8 February 2013, a series of protests began against increases in electricity bills which later turned into protests against corruption. On 19 April 2013, the Belgrade Pristina Normalization Agreement was signed between the governments of Kosovo and Serbia. Prior, North Kosovo functioned independently from the institutions in Kosovo by refusing to recognize Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence and the Government of Kosovo opposed any parallel government for Serbs.[53][54][55] The Brussels Agreement abolished the parallel structures and both governments agreed upon creating a Community of Serb Municipalities. The association was expected to be officially formed in 2016 but continued discussions has resulted in not forming the Community. By signing the Agreement, the European Union's Commission considered Serbia had met key steps in its relations with Kosovo and recommended that negotiations for accession of Serbia to the European Union be opened.[56] Several days after the agreement was reached, the European Commission recommended authorizing the launch of negotiations between the EU and Kosovo on the Stabilisation and Association Process.[57]

The 2014 student protest in Kosovo demanded the resignation or dismissal of the University of Pristina Rector. Students threw red paint and rocks at the Kosovo Police who responded with tear gas. 30 Kosovo Police officers were injured and more than 30 students were arrested.[58] The upper airspace over Kosovo, skies over 10,000 feet, was re-opened for civilian traffic overflights on 3 April 2014. This followed a decision by the North Atlantic Council to accept the offer by the Government of Hungary to act as a technical enabler through its national air navigation service provider, Hungarocontrol.[59]

The 2015 Kosovo protests were a series of violent protests calling for the resignation of a Minister and the passage of a bill on Trepca Mines ownership. On 6 January protestors claiming that among the pilgrims visiting a local church for Orthodox Christmas included displaced Serbs from Gjakova involved in war crimes against Albanians in 1998-1999 threw blocks of ice at the bus breaking one of its windows. Kosovo Police arrested two protestors. The Minister For Community and Return, who accompanied the pilgrims, made a statement that was perceived by Kosovo Albanians as an ethnic slur leading to riots. The rioters, which included students and opposition parties, demanded his resignation and he was dismissed by the Kosovo Prime Minister.[60] The Kosovo government's announcement it was postponing a decision on the privatization process of the Trepca mining complex after Serb Kosovo Parliamentary Representatives protested claiming that the Serbian government had the right to retain ownership was met with student-led protests in Pristina, Lipljan and Ferizaj/Urosevac, Kosovo Albanian Miners in South Trepca and Kosovo Serbian Miners in North Trepca. Trepca's lead, zinc, and silver mines once accounted for 75 percent of the mineral wealth of socialist Yugoslavia, employing 20,000 people. Trepca now operates at a minimum level to keep the mines alive employing several thousand miners. The Trepca mines are under the oversight of the Kosovo Privatization Agency.[61]

9 January 2016, thousands of protestors wanted the government to withdraw from a border demarcation agreement with Montenegro and an agreement to set up a Community of Serb Municipalities. Police fired tear gas responding to protesters who threw Molotov cocktails and set fire to a government building. The Kosovo Assembly later withdrew the agreements.[62]

KFOR-MSU Carabinieri patrol in Mitrovica near the St. Dimitri Orthodox Church (2017).

On 14 January 2017, the Belgrade-Kosovska Mitrovica train incident happened when rhetoric was exchanged between Kosovo and Serbian Officials after Serbia announced restarting train service between Kosovo and Serbia and Kosovo responded stating that the train would be stopped at the border. The initial train was painted in the colors of the Serbian flag with the words “Kosovo is Serbia” printed down the side which was considered provocative by Kosovo Officials and Kosovo Officials stated that Police would stop it at the border. The train traveled from Belgrade to the border town of Raska and returned never crossing into Kosovo.[63] Train service between Kosovo and Serbia remains non-existent.

On 21 March 2018, Kosovo's Assembly ratified the border agreement with Montenegro. The European Union set ratification as a condition before it would grant Kosovo nationals visa-free access to the pass-port free Schengen area.[64] 8 September, Serbia's president visited North Kosovo's Gazivode Lake, an important source of Kosovo's water. The following day, his planned visit to the majority-Serb village Banje was cancelled by the Kosovo government after Kosovo Albanian protestors put up barricades at the village's entrance.[65] 29 Sept, Kosovo's president visited Gazivode Lake. Serbia accused Kosovo police of seizing control of the lake and briefly detaining workers and Kosovo said police were there to provide security for the visit and nobody was detained. A Kosovo Serbian representative said Serbia was putting its military as well as police under high alert as a result.[66] 20 November The international police agency (INTERPOL), rejected Kosovo's membership.[67] On 21 November, Kosovo imposed an import tax on Serbian and Bosnia Herzogovina goods. Kosovo said the tariff would be lifted when Serbia recognizes its sovereignty and stops blocking it from joining international organizations and Serbia said it will not participate in further dialogue until the measure is lifted.[68]

On 29 September 2023, the NATO Secretary-General announced the authorisation of additional forces to address the build up of Serbian troops on the border of Kosovo and Serbia in order to keep peace within the region.[69]

KFOR fatalities[edit]

Graffiti against KFOR in Fontana, Belgrade; "Death to KFOR".

Since the KFOR entered Kosovo in June 1999, soldiers from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States were killed in the line of duty.[70][failed verification]

The biggest fatal event is that of the 42 Slovak soldiers dead in a 2006 military plane crash in Hungary.[71][72] In 20 years, more than 200 NATO soldiers have died as part of KFOR.[73] On 1 July 2021, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that the KFOR mission will continue.[74] On 29 May 2023, more than 30 NATO peacekeeping soldiers defending three town halls in northern Kosovo have been injured in clashes with Serb protesters, while Serbia's president put the army on the highest level of combat alert.[75] The tense situation developed after ethnic Albanian mayors took office in northern Kosovo's Serb-majority area after elections that the Serbs boycotted.

Notes and references[edit]


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  3. ^ a b c "NATO's role in Kosovo". nato.int. 29 November 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
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  15. ^ The French contingent was not active in the years 2013–2024
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  37. ^ NATO (9 June 1999). "Military Technical Agreement between the International Security Force ("KFOR") and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia". Retrieved 15 August 2008.
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  70. ^ "Bundesheer - TRUPPENDIENST International - Edition 2/2010 - The Austrian Armed Forces in Kosovo". www.bundesheer.at. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
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  75. ^ "NATO Troops Injured in Clashes with Serb Protesters in Kosovo". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2023.

External links[edit]