NATO

NATO Marks 20 Years Of Military Operations In Kosovo

The two decades-long peacekeeping operation in the European state has become known as 'KFOR'.

NATO is marking 20 years of peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.

Three-and-a-half thousand troops, from 28 NATO allies and partner nations make up 'KFOR', or Kosovo Force.

An ethnic conflict that tore apart the southeastern European state forms the background to NATO's involvement.

Fighting broke out between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian forces in 1998, amidst the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

A campaign of ethnic cleansing was pursued by President Slobodan Milosevic, prompting NATO's intervention in 1999.

The then-Serbian President spearheaded attacks against all non-Serbs, in particular, Kosovo Albanians.

In response, failed diplomatic avenues were followed by military options, including airstrikes.

Jonathan Parish, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations, said: "The conflict had created this dire humanitarian crisis, it was threatening the stability of the region, and the security of the region, and NATO's intervention was therefore necessary."

Despite being largely at peace, tensions still remains in Kosovo (Picture: NATO TV).

A 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended the 1998-99 conflict, which saw more than 10,000 people killed.

NATO troops on the ground were also involved, and they made their way into Kosovo on 12 June 1999.

Before first light, British paratroopers from 5th Airborne Brigade and personnel from the Gurkha Rifles had started crossing over the border from Macedonia.

British Chinook and US Apache helicopters followed, while on the ground, soldiers from 4 Armoured Brigade lined up in convoy.

It was the start of one of the biggest military deployments since the Second World War.

A major objective of 'KFOR' is to train Kosovan forces in specialist areas such as bomb disposal (Picture: NATO TV).

At its peak, up to 50,000 NATO personnel were deployed to Kosovo, 200 of whom died for the mission.

Two decades on, NATO's presence remains.

A major objective of 'KFOR' is to train Kosovan forces in specialist areas such as bomb disposal, amidst the threat of thousands of unexploded devices and explosive remnants from the war.

1st Lieutenant Taylor Martin, Commander, KFOR EOD Team, said:

"If they get called in something, then we need to know what they're capable of, so that if the worst happens and then we get called in as a backup, then we know what we're going into."

Despite Kosovo being largely at peace, the tensions which caused the conflict still exist.

The relevance of KFOR's mission is fully clear in the present day, especially with the reluctance of Russia and Serbia to recognise Kosovo's independence.