NATO reinforces KFOR in Kosovo

7 October 2023

The first contingent of two hundred British soldiers arrived in Kosovo on 6 October 2023 to reinforce NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping mission. The deployment comes after the violent attack on Kosovo Police on 24 September and increased tensions in the region.

The soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment are joining a 400-strong UK contingent already in Kosovo. The Romanian government on 3 October announced it was also sending some 100 extra troops to bolster KFOR.

NATO has been leading a peacekeeping operation in Kosovo since 1999 in accordance with its mandate under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. KFOR currently consists of well over 4,500 troops contributed by 27 NATO allies and partners.

The deployment is based on a request by NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and was approved in the North Atlantic Council (NAC) on 29 September 2023. In a statement, the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the NAC authorised additional forces to address the current situation, but did not immediately specify how many or from which countries.

NATO authorised additional forces for Kosovo following an attack by heavily armed Serbs on police near the village of Banjskë in northern Kosovo on 24 September. The attackers then occupied a monastery, leading to a day-long standoff. A policeman and three of the assailants were killed. Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and 1999 NATO intervention, accused Serbia of arming and supporting the Serb fighters. Serbia, which has not recognised its former province's independence, blamed Kosovo for precipitating violence by mistreating ethnic Serb residents. The military-grade weapons seized from the attackers indicated that the Serbs in northern Kosovo, where they are in the majority, were preparing for a fight.

The situation was further exacerbated by an alleged military build-up by Serbia on the border with Kosovo. The White House said on 29 September that there was an “unprecedented” buildup of Serbian troops and armour along the Kosovo border and called on Belgrade to withdraw them immediately. The Biden administration said it was consulting with allies to ensure KFOR’s posture “matches the threat”. However, Serbia announced the next day that it had pulled some of its troops back from the Kosovo border after US warnings that it could face punitive measures. The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, said any military action would be counterproductive, adding: “Serbia does not want war”.