The Kosovo Security Force is capable of responding to natural and man-made emergency situations.
By Enis Rexhepi for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 18/02/14
A Kosovo Security Force (KSF) unit is deployed during training exercises. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]
The Kosovo Security Force (KSF) has achieved a full operational capability to react in man-made and natural disasters, a status confirmed by NATO, officials said.
KSF has particularly consolidated its search and rescue capability, said Florian Qehaja, executive director of the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies in Pristina.
"The main focus on civil emergency matters made it possible to raise KSF's capacity in this area," Qehaja told SETimes.
Officials said KSF emergency response is conducted in accordance with Kosovo's national response plan and the Law for Protection from Natural Disasters.
The plan stipulates KSF is the first institution to react in cases of evacuation of civilians and is second in 15 additional emergency categories.
KSF emergency response activities are closely co-ordinated with Kosovo's Agency for Emergency Management and the police, said Ibrahim Shala, director of the public relations department at the ministry of KSF.
"The exchange of information is quick and distributed through the chain of command," Shala told SETimes.
While KSF's most advanced unit is the civil defence regiment, specialising in search and rescue particularly in winter conditions, KFS is also capable of responding in other kinds of emergencies.
"[They include] demining, hazardous materials response and medical emergencies," Shala said.
Given its responsibility, KFS has participated in the response to the successive floods in northern Albania and in rescuing civilians during the avalanche in Dragas in Kosovo in 2012.
To reach the current level of capability, KSF engaged in bilateral co-operation with most regional countries as well as with NATO members Denmark, Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom.
KSF has also benefited from partnering with a US unit, the Iowa National Guard, since 2011, which has opened the doors to the full breath of US capabilities.
A team from the Iowa National Guard and the Iowa Department of Public Safety facilitated a workshop on crisis management and emergency preparedness last month, focusing on situational awareness and improving information exchange during emergencies.
Analysts said KSF gained much-needed knowledge and skills that will be necessary as it transforms into an army.
"Kosovo now needs a small professional army in line with its budgetary and human capacities. This force will take over the powers of KFOR when it eventually withdraws from Kosovo," Qehaja said.
Because KSF has excelled in search and rescue, officials said they decided to create a special search and rescue task force, and are working to establish a regional training centre.
Moreover, the government plans to adapt KSF's responsibilities at the next strategic security sector review that will be conducted in co-operation with NATO.
"We expect to complete the strategic review of the Kosovo security sector and the conclusions reached then will be sent to the government as recommendations," Shala said.
What can Kosovo do to develop further its emergency response capabilities? Share your opinion in the comments space.