The Dutch contribution to Kosovo Force 1999 – 2000 (KFOR)
On 20 March, the Dutch government agreed to a NATO request to deploy a mortar-locating battery equipped with 3 radars to Macedonia. The battery was assigned to the German 2nd Panzer Brigade on 12 April. Its purpose was to protect KFOR.
At the beginning of April, 1 radar group was stationed close to the Macedonian‑Serbian border. The other 2 radar groups were stationed close to headquarters in Kumanovo. On 11 June, a radar group was stationed in the vicinity of Tetovo to protect the KFOR units that would be entering Kosovo a day later. An artillery platoon equipped with 5 M109 155 mm self-propelled howitzers had been deployed to Macedonia at the end of April. On 30 April, like the radar groups, the artillery platoon was assigned to the German brigade stationed in Tetovo.
The Dutch government made the remaining part of the artillery battalion (610 service members) available on 10 June 1999. This unit included 3 artillery platoons that, with the platoon already in Macedonia, would form 2 artillery batteries. In addition, the Netherlands made an engineer auxiliary battalion of 857 service members available. This battalion consisted of:
- an armoured engineer company;
- a bridge and construction company;
- an infantry company;
- a transport company;
- a general and support company;
- a headquarters and headquarters combat service support company.
The Netherlands also sent 4 Bölkow light reconnaissance helicopters and 3 CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters to Kosovo.
The first Dutch KFOR military personnel in the area of operations (4 forward air controllers) entered Kosovo with a German reconnaissance unit on 12 June. The destination was the city of Prizren, where the Germans established their headquarters. On 23 June, Germany’s 12 Panzer Brigade was designated Multinational Brigade South (MNB South). The brigade sector was divided up and responsibility for each area was given to a task force.
The artillery personnel and their equipment constituted Task Force Orahovac, which established itself at Zrze airport in the town of Orahovac on 13 June. Both Serbian and Albanian Kosovars were full of praise for the expeditiousness with which this risky mission had been carried out. The entire battalion, including the mortar-locating radar battery, was in the area of operations by 22 June.
In advance of a broader agreement between KFOR and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the local KLA commander was prepared to hand in the weapons of his KLA fighters to military personnel of the 11th Horse Artillery Battalion. The number of incidents (aimed mainly against the Serbian population) increased at the end of June, however. The Dutch and German military personnel in Orahovac regularly had to fire warning shots and flares to prevent escalation. A German tank squadron had been assigned to the Dutch battalion.
Tensions rose further when it became known that a Russian battalion would be stationed in the vicinity of Orahovac. The 1st Russian company arrived on 13 July and was placed under the command of the battalion. A few days earlier, a Turkish company (with a Georgian infantry platoon since December 1999) had likewise been placed under the battalion’s command. The Dutch reconnaissance platoon was placed with the Russian company as part of the German squadron. The Dutch conducted joint patrols in Orahovac and the surrounding area with the Germans, Turks and Russians.
Joint patrols end
The joint German-Dutch-Russian patrols ended on 18 July when a second Russian company arrived in the Dutch battalion’s sector. The 2 Russian companies were assigned their own area in and around the town of Malisevo. A few months later, one of the 2 batteries therefore relocated to Suva Reka, a town further to the east. The battalion’s staff relocated to Suva Reka in January 2000, as a result of which Task Force Orahovac was renamed Task Force Siroko.
Attack in Orahovac
7 people were injured and 1 was killed as a result of an attack on Serbian residents of Orahovac on 17 December. The attack again showed that maintaining law and order was by no means easy. On 27 October 1999, for example, refugees travelling in a convoy from Orahovac to Montenegro were attacked by an angry crowd of Albanian Kosovars in the city of Pec. Dutch personnel accompanying the refugees were only able to prevent fatalities by positioning themselves between the Serbian and Albanian Kosovars. In the city of Mitrovica (located in MNB Area North), tensions rose to such a pitch that it was necessary to bring in KFOR reinforcements from other parts of Kosovo. These reinforcements included Dutch personnel. The battalion was removed from KFOR’s combat formation on 1 May 2000 and returned to the Netherlands.
At the beginning of July 1999, the engineer auxiliary battalion established itself at an airport somewhat to the north of Prizren. The deployment area was in the northwestern part of MNB Area South and comprised the areas of operations of Task Force Border (German), Task Force Orahovac (Dutch) and Task Force Malisevo (Russian). The main efforts were being made in the area of Task Force Malisevo. The need was high in the region, which was difficult to access for both military logistics personnel and members of the press. Moreover, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were not very active in the region.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, coordinated the work in a general sense. This work focused mainly on rebuilding homes, repairing schools and hospitals and restoring the water supply. Most of the humanitarian relief supplies were brought from Macedonia to Kosovo by the transport company. The engineer support provided to the brigade was limited to clearing mines, improving roads and bridges and building and maintaining shelters. The battalion ended its operational tasks on 2 June. The last service members arrived back in the Netherlands on 7 July.
Updated: 1 November 2009