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The Balkans

12 - The New NATO Strategy

While AFSOUTH was concentrating on its deterrence mission, the European transition towards a new security environment continued. By March 1991 all Cruise and Pershing II missiles were removed from Europe. In May, the Yugoslav Defence Minister declared that his country was in a state of civil war. Albania's communists decided to authorise political opposition. The Balkans gradually became the focus of international attention.

As a direct consequence of the experience from Southern Guard, more nations decided to be represented at AFSOUTH. First, The Netherlands, which opened a liaison office on 30 September 1991, eventually followed by Germany and Canada.

The AFSOUTH headquarters was at the time closely following the evolutions of the situation in Yugoslavia while it had launched a very ambitious co-operation program with Central and Eastern European non-NATO neighbours.

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13 - The Crisis in Former Yugoslavia

The situation which significantly marked the life and future of AFSOUTH were the events following the collapse of the Yugoslav Federation and eventually the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO's involvement began with a political statement made in February 1992, calling on all parties to respect cease-fire arrangements in order to allow deployment of United Nations peacekeepers. In July, the United States launched the operation "Provide Promise," to deliver supplies to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On 10 July 1992 the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Alliance discussed, at Helsinki, the NATO contribution to the monitoring of sanctions mandated by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Welcoming the Western European Union's (WEU) Ministers' decision to establish a naval monitoring force, they agreed on a corresponding NATO force to be drawn from NATO's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean. They also required the NATO force to act in close co-operation and co-ordination with the Western European Union naval force. Another ‘first' for NATO was to take place in the southern region.

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14 - Building on the Experience in Bosnia

Commanding IFOR in Bosnia thrust AFSOUTH into the forefront of NATO's emerging strategic concept, making very clear the reinforced importance of NATO forces in fostering peace and stability in Europe. It also demonstrated NATO's ability to work side by side with non-NATO nations and the importance of military alliances and coalitions in building understanding and stability in an era of increased tensions and military downsizing.

The importance of being capable of militarily containing a crisis was shown by the results achieved by Operation "Alba," conducted in Albania under Italian leadership. "Alba" included nations which had shared with AFSOUTH the IFOR/SFOR experience. Since turning over responsibility of IFOR, AFSOUTH headquarters refocused its attention on the entire southern region. Briefly stated, its goals included: increasing the political cohesion and operational effectiveness within the southern region; improving the deterrent and collective defence capabilities of forces; developing crisis management and peace support operations capabilities and enhancing regional stability by dialogue and military co-operation.

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15 - The Crisis In Kosovo

Of particular relevance were also short-notice exercises conducted in Albania, with the implicit aim to demonstrate NATO's commitment to stability in the entire Balkan area, at a moment when a new crisis was developing within the former Yugoslavian province of Kosovo. To send a clear message that no option was ruled out by NATO, from June to August 1998 AFSOUTH brought STANAVFORMED ships to visit the port of Durres; conducted an air presence exercise ("Determined Falcon") over the skies of Albania and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2); and deployed land troops and aircraft to Albania with exercise "Co-operative Assembly." To show a broader NATO commitment, Headquarters Allied Forces Northwest Europe also conducted an exercise in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2) the same summer.

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16 - Operation Allied Force

The international community conducted the Rambouillet peace talks in France, trying to mediate a peaceful solution to the crisis. Meanwhile, the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) was authorised to deploy to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2) in anticipation of a cease fire agreement. Eventually, some of the NATO nations also began to deploy units which were earmarked to participate in peace support operations.

After all efforts to achieve a negotiated, political solution to the Kosovo crisis failed, no alternative was open but to take military action. NATO's Secretary General directed the Supreme Allied Commander Europe to initiate air operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Air operations commenced on 24 March 1999 under the name "Operation Allied Force". That obviously implied the termination of Operation Eagle Eye.

Operation Allied Force was the first high intensity air campaign conducted by NATO. A formidable force of NATO aircraft, which reached a peak of over 900, coming from 14 nations and operating from over 40 different locations, flew over 38,000 sorties.

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17 - Operation Allied Harbour

While Operation "Allied Force" was in progress, over 12,000 NATO troops were deployed in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2) either as part of the former Extraction Force or to be ready to execute a peace implementation mission, under the leadership of the ARRC.

At the same time, there was an increase in the flow of refugees from Kosovo to Montenegro, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (2) and particularly Albania, all wishing to escape the brutal repression from the Serb forces. Albania embraced the Kosovars and, at the height of the emergency, there were nearly half a million refugees living with host families, in collection centres and refugee camps.

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18 - Peace Implementation in Kosovo

On 10 June 1999 the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1244, which called for an immediate and verifiable end to violence and repression in Kosovo and for a complete verifiable phased withdrawal of all military, police and para-military forces. This withdrawal would be synchronised with the deployment of an international security presence in Kosovo. The resolution also established the responsibilities of both an international security presence – which was called Kosovo Force (KFOR) – and an international civil presence. The latter was eventually formed as the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), as the leading international body tasked to provide an interim administration for Kosovo "while establishing and overseeing the development of provisional democratic self-governing institutions to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants of Kosovo." The NATO operation calling for the deployment of KFOR was named "Joint Guardian."

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