Early in the New Year, on 18 January 2001, AFSOUTH assumed operational responsibilities for the forces of Operation "Joint Guardian," which included the Kosovo Force. KFOR at the time was comprised of forces from 39 nations, 20 of which were not part of NATO (Argentina, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, and Ukraine).
KFOR soldiers overlooking control point north of Donji Livoc.
A total of 42,000 troops were deployed in Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2) and Albania. The transition was indeed seamless; even though the situation in Kosovo and in Southern Serbia was far from being stable. There was a constant risk of escalation of hostilities at various potential flash points, like the town of Mitrovica. During the same period, tension was also very high in areas just across the Kosovo southern and south-eastern borders because of activities by Albanian armed extremists.
Just one month later, on 19 February, the land forces of Operation "Joint Forge," the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) for Bosnia-Herzegovina, were transferred to the operational control of AFSOUTH. Thirty-four nations contributed to SFOR, including 15 non-NATO nations (Albania, Austria, Argentina, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden), for a total of about 20,000 troops.
With the combined services of both KFOR and SFOR, AFSOUTH was now responsible for the leadership of forces provided by 40 countries; with over 62,000 troops and a powerful air component, mainly deployed on Italian bases. The most powerful and complex joint force ever assigned to a NATO regional command. A force which had to face continuous challenges, like the activity of armed extremists in Southern Serbia, which led to allowing the military forces of the Federal republic of Yugoslavia to progressively re-enter the Ground Safety Zone established around Kosovo. And like the violence eventually erupting in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2), which prompted a need for further NATO engagement within that country, to include the deployment of an AFSOUTH team to form a NATO Co-ordination and Co-operation Centre.
Eventually, AFSOUTH planned and conducted Operation Essential Harvest, collecting and destroying weapons and ammunition voluntarily surrendered by Albanian insurgents, as a result of a political agreement between the government of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia (2) and Albanian insurgents. For the first time, NATO acted militarily in an effort to prevent a crisis from developing into a conflict. And it succeeded. Once more AFSOUTH had a leading role in exploring new ways to foster peace and stability. As a natural consequence of that success, AFSOUTH was also tasked to deploy a follow-on force, called Task Force Fox, with the duty, on request by the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2), to provide additional security protection to international OSCE and EU civil monitors.