Manpower and equipment upgrades are key challenges to improve the country's military capacity.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 07/04/14
Albania Defence Minister Mimi Kodheli inspects a military command post during a training exercise. [Albania Ministry of Defence]
Albania plans to upgrade its military capabilities to enable its armed forces to fulfil the entire spectrum of operational duties as a NATO member, officials said.
The country's motorised infantry battalion is the main obligation under the capacity required by NATO, said Edlira Prendi, spokesperson for the Albania defence ministry.
"Developing this battalion will be considered a priority by the general staff of the armed forces, and is reflected in all plans for restructuring, modernisation and training for 2014," Prendi told SETimes.
But Albania, like many NATO member states, faces a difficult choice between a NATO requirement to allocate 2 percent of the GDP to the military as opposed to spending on competing civilian programmes in education, healthcare and unemployment, according to Defence Minister Mimi Kodheli.
The government allocated 1.4 percent of its GDP for the military last year.
"Many of our allies have been affected by the economic crisis," Kodheli said. "While some of our allies' economies are recovering, not all are at the same pace of recovery. [We believe] in a fair burden sharing and a reasonable challenge regarding the targets that we will be assigned and accept as part of the NATO defence planning process."
NATO officials said reforms to provide the right manpower in the face of budget cuts is crucial to successful military modernisation.
Operational commitments such as in Afghanistan, coupled with financial obligations, have made it difficult to find adequate manpower, but the member states have to provide it for the NATO command structure to work, said Alan Mackenzie, head of the financial operations and policy branch at the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers Europe.
"That is what we are trying to do, to persuade the nations to fill all the posts 100 percent," Mackenzie told SETimes.
Albania will implement the necessary reforms aiming to reach the standards of allied countries, Kodheli said.
"We are currently in a programme of upgrading the equipment for our forces while we are seeking to obtain the most capabilities with the available resources," she said.
Mackenzie said NATO is trying to provide as much equipment as possible, but sometimes it takes time to develop and implement it.
"Particularly on the communication and information systems side, it tends to be a longer process than desirable for the commanders in the ground," Mackenzie said.
While equipment upgrades are a responsibility of the individual states, they can be accomplished jointly with other member states, said Joris Ghesquiere, head of the plans and policy branch at the NATO office of resources.
"NATO provides a framework so that there is coherent planning," Ghesquiere told SETimes. "When they do the capability upgrades, they do it in an organised fashion, so that all those individual activities give you a stronger result."
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