Παρασκευή 12 Ιανουαρίου 2024

Hellenic Forces in Albania (ELDAL)

The crisis that broke out in Albania, in early March of 1997, following the collapse of the banking system, spread quickly.

By the No. 1101/1997 UNSC Resolution, issued after the Report of the E.U. and the OSCE Working Groups, the establishment of a temporary, small scale OSCE-led Multinational Protection Force in Albania was authorized, in order to create a secure environment for the missions of the International Organizations in Albania, ensuring the conduct of free elections for the appointment of a new government.

Italy was the lead nation in the Multinational Protection Force, with participating nations France, Turkey, Spain, Romania, Denmark, Austria, Slovenia, Belgium and Greece.

PARTICIPATION OF HELLENIC FORCES:

The Hellenic Contingent in Albania consisting of 803 men and 224 vehicles arrived in Albania on the 5th of April 1997, in the context of operation “ALBA”. The task of the Hellenic Contingent was to:

  • Ensure the main entry points in the area of operations and secure the arrival of the humanitarian aid and its proper transportation to aid distribution points.
  • Provide a secure environment for the International Committee and International Organizations operating there, and in the context of the provided assistance the safe conduct   general elections in June of 1997.
During its stay in Albania, the Hellenic Contingent conducted reconnaissance missions, ensured routes and itineraries, escorted convoys of humanitarian aid of International Organizations in Central and South Albania, and offered protection to OSCE Observers during the conduct of Parliamentary Elections in the country.

The establishment, organization, training and expedition of the Force of 800 men approximately abroad, within a short period of time, as well as its subsistence under specific environments, have methodically been accomplished.

The participation of the Hellenic Contingent was exemplary and received complimentary remarks by the Commander of FMP, General Forlani, and the Chief of Defense of Albania, Copani as well as other Organizations (OSCE, CIMIC, etc.).

Greece, in the context of Humanitarian Aid Missions, provided 80 tons of various types of humanitarian aid to the Albanian Armed Forces and to the city of Sarante (Agioi Saranta) by sea and air means, during the crisis in Albania.

The total cost   of the provided humanitarian aid amounted to 90.000 €uros, including medical equipment. Greece also allocated five (5) officers from three Services of the Armed Forced, headed by a Brigadier General. They were tasked to provide assistance to the Albanian Armed Forces in their reorganization.

After the mission of FMP was terminated within the time limits imposed by the Mandate, the Hellenic Contingent began to withdraw and the operation was concluded in August 1997.

Following a bilateral agreement between Greece and Albania, a Protocol was signed for the Hellenic Military Liaison-Advisors Mission to remain in Camp ISBERISH and a new Hellenic Contingent in Albania to be established, consisting of a reinforced Company of 205 men. The Protocol was signed on the 25th of September 1997, with the provision that the Contingent would remain in Albania for a six-month period.  Its stay was prolonged, after the allocated time span, following a request of the Albanian Government.

The main task of the Hellenic Contingent was to assist the Hellenic Military Committee in reorganizing the Albanian Armed Forces. More specifically:

  • To establish  proper working conditions, and to facilitate  the  Hellenic Liaison-Advisor Military Mission
  • To secure Camp ISEBERISH and to develop the appropriate storage facilities as well as to secure and to deliver supplies and materials forwarded from Greece.
  • To provide the necessary assistance for the reorganization of the Albanian Armed Forces in various training fields.
  • To guard, upon request, the Military Hospital at Tirana
  • To provide medical treatment to the local population of Tirana, at the Field Hospital of the Hellenic Contingent at Camp ISBERISH.
  • The repair and construction of public buildings, school, and roads etc…
  • To provide protection to the Hellenic Units participating in PfP exercises in Albania.
  • To provide protection to the personnel of PfP cell, NATO in Tirana

As crisis broke out in Kosovo, Albania received an inflow of refugees. The Albanian Government declared that it was unable to provide housing and provisions and thus requested International Community assistance.

The Hellenic Government responded to the request and began forwarding assistance through the Hellenic Contingent.

The Hellenic National Defense General Staff allocated one (1) Engineering Battalion, one (1) CH-47D helicopter, medical personnel, seven (7) field kitchens and two (2) field ovens to Albania on the 8th and 9th of  April 1999.

Following the issue of NATO Operational plan “ALLIED HARBOR” which depicted the deployment of a NATO Force in Albania under the name “Albania Force”, (AFOR), to assist the Albanian Government and the International Organizations in providing humanitarian aid to refugees, the following Units have been allocated to AFOR specifically to the French Brigade-South (TF SOUTH) by the end of April 1999: one (1) Infantry Company, one (1) Engineering Company and one (1) Transportation Platoon. The total strength of the Force amounted to 170 officers and soldiers.

The Hellenic Government assumed the responsibility to organize and operate three (3) refugee camps.

Camp “Athena” at Koukes, with a 1000 refugee capacity in 100 tents. The Camp operated from the 4th to 28th of April 1999, when it was handed over to the Albania MOD, while Greece continued providing provisions until the end of May 1999.

Camp “Olympia” at Tirana, with a 2000 refugee capacity in 200 camper houses. The Camp operated from the 2nd of April to the 15th of July 1999, when it was handed over to ACT organization (Action by Churches Together Organizations).

Camp “Athena” at Koukes, with a 1000 refugee capacity in 100 tents. The Camp operated from the 4th to 28th of April 1999, when it was handed over to the Albania MOD, while Greece continued providing provisions until the end of May 1999.

Camp “Olympia” at Tirana, with a 2000 refugee capacity in 200 camper houses. The Camp operated from the 2nd of April to the 15th of July 1999, when it was handed over to ACT organization (Action by Churches Together Organizations).

Camp “Vergena” at Pogradets, with a 2000 refugee capacity in 200 tents. The Camp operated until the 3rd of July 1999, when it was handed over to Pogradets Prefecture.

The construction of the appropriate infrastructure to accommodate the refugees was at the total expense of the Hellenic Government.

The Hellenic Contingent remained in Albania until the 31st of August 1999, when the Allied Mission was concluded.

On the 23rd of October 1999, Supplementary Agreements to the Assistance Protocol were signed between the Deputy National Defense Ministers of Greece and Albania. According to those Agreements, the Hellenic Contingent was renamed to “Hellenic Logistics Mission in Albania”.

The purpose of those Supplementary Agreements was to deal with the following;

  • Construction of a Military Hospital at Argyrokastro
  • Repair the infrastructure of   RINAS Military Airport
  • Monitor all reports on armistice violations
  • Repair the Infrastructure of the Durres Naval Base
  • Organizing and supplying the Rapid Reaction Brigade at Tirana, for the prospect of future works, if needed, when agreed by both parties.
  • Guard and secure personnel, equipment and means allocated to Albania.

On the 30th of July 2000, a hand over ceremony of Camp IZBERISH took place. The Ministers of Defense of Greece and Albania attended the ceremony. The main part of the Hellenic Contingent was also repatriated on this date.

The 601st Airborne Infantry Battalion was awarded the Α’ Class War Cross, following a Presidential Decree, dated on the 6th of September 2000. The above Battalion formed the basic core of the allocated forces to Albania.

NATO presence in Albania continued with the Multinational Force, which was renamed to Communication Zone-West, under KFOR command.

On the 1st of August 2000, the new Hellenic Force was established in the context of NATO Operation “JOINT GUARDIAN”, located at camp “PLEPA” at Durres under COMMZ(W) command  and consisted of one (1) Infantry Company, one (1) Engineers Platoon and a National Support Element, with a total strength of  95 men . The Force was supplemented with 33 vehicles.

The Hellenic Contingent -3 in Albania had as a main task to secure and   to safeguard the road connecting RINAS airport with Port of DURRES , as well as the development  and enhancement of its  cooperation and confidence with the Albanian Authorities. Additionally, four (4) Liaison Officers-Advisors remained in Albania, in support of the Albanian Armed Forces in their effort to reorganize and to reach the Alliance standards. They were repatriated in early 2003, following the termination of their mission.

On the 17th of June 2002, NATO transformed KFOR Communication Zone WEST to a new NATO HQ in Tirana (NHQT), under the command of the Supreme Military Representative (SMR), in order to maintain stability in the Balkans. The SMR was subordinated to CINCSOUTH.

The task of NHQT, under the command of SMR, was to facilitate the coordination among the Albanian Government, the International Community Organizations and NATO. The HQ will observe communications between the Commander of KFOR and SMR at Scopje and provide support. The HQ consists of 600 personnel (military and civilians) from five (5) nations (Italy, Greece, Poland, Turkey and the USA).

Currently, SMR and NHQT are based at Durres. Plans are being elaborated to relocate the HQ to Tirana. A NATO Advisory Team is lodged at the Albanian MOD, in offices afforded by the Albanian General Staff.

Greece, in the context of NATO Forces reallocating in the Balkans, allocated one (1) Airborne Company (80 men) from the  601st Airborne Infantry Battalion , tasked to ensure communications and the trouble-free use of Tirana airport and the  Port of Duress.

In 2004, and for an one (1) year period, Greece succeeded Italy in the command of NHQT. The Hellenic Force consisted of one (1) HQ Support Company and Staff Officers a total of 47 men..

Following the review of OPLAN 10501 concerning the operations in the Balkans in December of 2005, NATO HQT (28 military personnel) and the NATO Advisory Team remained in Albania while the Hellenic HQ Support Company was repatriated on the 21st  of December 2005.

Since March of 2006 (and for a two year period ) Greece has allocated one General Officer with the rank of Brigadier General , as Senior Military Representative of NATO to Albania, who assumed the duties of NATO HQT Commander, and 14 cadres (Officers and NCOs from the three Branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces) to fill the  HQ  vacancies.