HL Deb 13 June 2002 vol 636 cc47-8WA
Lord Parekh

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made on restructuring NATO's forces in the Balkans. [HL4698]

Lord Bach

At our Meeting in Brussels on 6 June, NATO defence Ministers approved a series of changes to SFOR and KFOR following the Joint Operational Area (JOA) Review.

The Review advocates a regional approach to NATO's peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, whereby both Bosnia and Kosovo will be treated for military planning purposes as a single theatre. The security situation in the Balkans has changed since the initial deployment of SFOR and KFOR. NATO's operations will be restructured accordingly to provide a smaller, lighter and more flexible force that will be better able to meet current challenges.

Implementation of the JAO Review will take place over the next 12 months. It is planned that by the end of 2002 SFOR will reduce from some 18,000 to some 12,000 personnel and KFOR from some 38,000 to some 32,000. By June 2003, it is envisaged that KFOR will reduce further to some 29,000 troops. Responsibilities for support of civil implementation will be transferred to local authorities and other international organisations, as appropriate. The United Kingdom welcomes the outcome of this review.

This reduction in troop numbers does not signal any reduction in NATO's commitment to the Balkans. Rather, these changes are a sign of the alliance's achievements to date in bringing security and stabililty to the Balkans. The United Kingdom, with the rest of NATO, remains committed to the security and stability of the Balkans and will continue to play its full role in achieving the international community's objectives for the region.

Individual nations are now considering and discussing with one another how to adjust their troop contributions in the light of the JOA Review.