KFOR's task in Kosovo is to ensure a secure environment for all inhabitants, regardless of their ethnic affiliation and this mission has made considerable progress. Its success has allowed a gradual adaptation of KFOR troop contributions, and in the immediate future, the number of its Battle Groups will be reduced from five to four, as MNBG Centre, to which the Swedish contingent belongs, will be merged with MNBG East. “The merger of these Battle Groups is a natural step as Kosovo’s administrative and security structures have in the course of time undergone a positive development and are now themselves capable of assuming responsibility for the security of the local population within our area of responsibility,” states Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel Lena Persson-Herlitz.
The merger has involved the long-term planning of exercises and the transfer of authority, together with soldiers from the MNBG East group led by the United States.
Shortly after the merger, the last Swedish rifle company will leave Kosovo, and in the future Sweden’s contribution will comprise liaison officers and advisers. The international community has long been aware that lasting peace in a former conflict-ridden area must be achieved by both military and civilian means. Sweden's contribution in Kosovo will increasingly focus on the long-term establishment of democratic institutions, which will be undertaken by the Swedish Armed Forces’ acting as advisors and mentors to Kosovo's own security structure.
“KFOR has flexible, mobile units that are able to operate throughout Kosovo, and this merger of Battle Groups is a step in the direction of a greater emphasis on liaison and advice, while retaining these units in Kosovo should the situation deteriorate, contrary to expectations,” states Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel Lena Persson-Herlitz.
As a consequence of the merger with MNBG East, the headquarters of MNBG Centre, which was located at Finland’s Camp Ville, will be closed down and command of the Battle Group will be exercised instead from the USA’s Camp Bondsteel. The new Battle Group will operate on a mobile footing in order to cover a larger geographical area.
“As the first stage in transforming KFOR, the number of soldiers will be reduced from 15,000 to 10,000, which is sufficient for the size of the country and for us to perform our task. A reduction in troop numbers is an obvious step, and we must consider what our next move will be, as we cannot remain in Kosovo permanently.
However, we must be prepared and not do anything not justified by the security situation,” says the KFOR Commander Erhard Bühler.
The Defence Operations Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Anders Lindström, who is ultimately responsible for planning and executing all Swedish operations, in both Sweden and abroad, visited the contingent in Kosovo last week. He, too, considers that this merger is an obvious measure for KFOR to take.
“What your contingent is involved in represents an important move, and you will be playing your part in this transformation,” he declared, as he addressed the assembled Swedish force.