Written answers

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Department of Defence

Overseas Missions

5:00 pm

Photo of Ciarán LynchCiarán Lynch (Cork South Central, Labour)
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Question 18: To ask the Minister for Defence if he will report on the situation of the 217 personnel that are deployed in KFOR. [13549/08]

Photo of Peter KellyPeter Kelly (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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Question 33: To ask the Minister for Defence if he has been briefed on the security situation in Kosovo; if he is satisfied as to the safety of the Defence Forces personnel serving there; if he has plans to visit Kosovo in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13455/08]

Photo of Tom KittTom Kitt (Minister of State (Government Chief Whip), Department of An Taoiseach; Minister of State, Department of Defence; Dublin South, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 33 together.

KFOR was established on 10 June 1999 in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244, for an initial period of twelve months, to continue thereafter unless the UN Security Council decides otherwise. KFOR's mandate is to establish a secure environment in Kosovo conducive to the implementation of refugee return and reconstruction.

KFOR has a current strength of approximately 15,700 troops drawn from 25 NATO countries and 10 non-NATO countries including Ireland, Austria, Finland and Sweden. KFOR operates under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, that is, it is entitled to use force to implement its mandate and to protect itself and the international civil presence.

Ireland has participated in KFOR since August 1999. The total number of Irish troops currently serving in Kosovo is 285. The figure is broken down as follows:

Infantry Group — 217

Headquarters Staff — 11

Framework Nation Staff — 57

The Irish Infantry Group, which is currently rotating, serves in the Multi-National Task Force (Centre) — MNTF (C) — with Ireland as current lead nation. In addition to Ireland, the Task Force also comprises troops from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Latvia. The Task Force's area of responsibility is generally the Pristina region, covering 7 municipalities with a population of approximately 1 million. The Irish commitment comprises a MOWAG mounted APC Company together with support and logistic elements and various HQ personnel.

In August 2007, Ireland assumed responsibility as Framework Nation for the Multinational Task Force Centre (MNTF (C)) in KFOR for a period of 12 months and additional Defence Forces personnel were deployed to KFOR, for the Framework Nation period. Brigadier General Gerry Hegarty from the Defence Forces assumed command of the MNTF (C) when Ireland took on the framework nation role commanding 1,200 troops from 6 nations. Currently 57 Irish Defence Forces personnel serve with the Framework Nation.

Minister O'Dea is satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving in KFOR. They are equipped with the most modern and effective equipment. This equipment enables troops to carry out the mission assigned, as well as providing the required protection specific to the mission. Minister O'Dea would like me to assure the House that ongoing threat assessments are carried out in mission areas and we continually review both personal equipment and force assets, to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are appropriately equipped to fulfil their roles. No mission is without danger, but Minister O'Dea is satisfied that all appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the safety of all Defence Forces personnel serving in KFOR.

Minister O'Dea receives regular briefings from the Defence Forces on the security situation in Kosovo and other missions in which the Defence Forces are serving. The situation in the Irish Area of Responsibility continues to be described as calm and stable, though unpredictable. The threat of attacks on KFOR personnel is assessed as low. Minister O'Dea is planning to visit Kosovo later this month to meet with Brigadier General Hegarty and the Irish personnel serving in Kosovo.

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