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Increasing Role

Szöveg: Béla Szabó |  2011. január 18. 12:45

Stabilizing or deteriorating political circumstances and security depending on a given region, accelerating development and constant – or in some cases reduced – troop levels. The Hungarian Defence Forces’ presence in missions abroad in 2010 was determined by a great many external factors…

“What has not changed, however is the commitment of the Republic of Hungary and the Hungarian Defence Forces to continue our engagement in peace enforcement and peacekeeping operations. And the motivation and professionalism of our soldiers serving in missions also remains unaltered", pointed out Maj-Gen. József Kovács, Commanding General, HDF Joint Force Command (HDF JFC) when discussing the role of the Hungarian Defence Forces in missions during 2010 and their upcoming tasks for 2011.

While in 2010 there were not any major changes in a number of long-running missions (Cyprus, Sinai Peninsula, Western Sahara, etc.), the political and security situation changed in two areas (both positively and negatively) – Gen. Kovács told Defence Mirror Extra.

Since it is in Hungary’s basic geopolitical interest to have peace and calm in our neighborhood, ie. the Western Balkans, it is obvious that the Hungarian Defence Forces’ second largest contingent abroad has been deployed in that area for several years. Fortunately, security has recently improved considerably in the region with political and economic consolidation continuing in 2010, so the restructuring (with decreasing troop levels) of both the KFOR and the EUFOR missions are on the agenda of the armed forces of our allies also involved in the stabilization process. In Kosovo, the KFOR maneuver infantry company of the Hungarian Defence Forces will continue to be stationed in the municipality of Pec/Peje , and officers serving in various staff and command individual positions will also continue to carry out their duties in 2011, although with a slightly modified task scheme. The planned changes involve certain guard and patrolling duties at several border crossings (GATEs), while NATO has suggested that the Hungarian Defence Forces should be present in Pristina with a company-strong force again (tasked with protecting the KFOR HQ). These proposals are currently under discussion.

In 2010, the troop levels of Operation EUFOR ALTHEA in Bosnia-Herzegovina were gradually reduced, and the mission has been reconfigured so it is now providing capacity building and training support besides maintaining its military presence. The Hungarian maneuver company stationed in Sarajevo is also increasingly focusing on these new areas. In addition to a number of soldiers serving in specific individual positions and the Hungarian National Support Element, Brig-Gen. Tibor Nagy has been requested to extend his tour of duty for another year as Deputy Commander EUFOR.

It is worth noting here that the role played by the Hungarian Defence Forces in various missions is held in high esteem by our allies in NATO, as shown by the fact that Hungary is the lead nation in several missions (e.g. in the ISAF HUN PRT and at the Kabul International Airport), and the HDF personnel are requested to fill key positions at a growing number of NATO commands.

“Unlike in the Balkans, consolidation is unfortunately out of the question in Afghanistan where the Hungarian Defence Forces’ largest and most dangerous mission is being conducted, and we have to prepare for a gradually deteriorating security situation in 2011 too", Gen. Kovács said, moving on to Hungary’s engagement in ISAF, Afghanistan. That is one of the reasons why we increased our troop presence in the Asian country by 200 in 2010, so today we have a 500-strong contingent (half of the total number of HDF personnel in missions abroad) serving in ISAF, Afghanistan. In addition to ‘traditional’ missions, Hungarian troops assumed several new roles in the region in 2010. The Mi–35 Air Mentor Team deployed in Afghanistan for the first time to train the attack helicopter pilots in the Afghan National Army Air Force (ANAAF). Furthermore, a HDF Combat Service Support (CSS) and Engineer Mentor Team commenced training the troops of the developing Afghan National Army (ANA). The widening range of tasks and the considerable troop surge have called for the deployment of a National Support Element (NSE) in the region which is responsible for managing transportation and supplies, that is, for providing logistic infrastructure. In September 2010, the Hungarian Defence Forces took command of the Kabul International Airport (KAIA) for the second time; there we have eighty soldiers in various positions serving under Brig-Gen. Nándor Kilián. Deployed in four-month rotations, there is a HDF Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) in the region that joins the US Special Forces in conducting special operations. The Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) also continues to perform its duties in Khilagay, where the OMLT and the personnel of the Ohio National Guard are mentoring and training an ANA battalion.

The most significant change in 2010 occurred in the largest contingent, the HDF Provincial Reconstruction Team (HUN PRT). The deteriorating security conditions and the growing number of attacks taking place every day have led to a situation in which the HUN PRT cannot fulfill its original role to its full extent – which is to provide assistance to reconstruction – so the HDF JFC will reconsider its future role. It is probable that the HUN PRT will also focus on training and mentoring. One thing is certain: the extent and quality of the Hungarian Defence Forces’ engagement in Afghanistan will not change in the coming years, what is more, it will expand – for example, this year another Air Mentor Team in the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) will commence its tour of duty to train Afghan pilots for flying Mi–17 transport helicopters.

Besides the Western Balkans and Afghanistan, Hungarian troops are also present in a number of other crisis zones around the world (in more than a dozen countries on three continents), so the obvious question is: how can this activity – which is so complex in terms of geography (ie. troop placement), operations tempo and task scheme – be synchronized on a high level? At the suggestion of Maj-Gen. Kovács, we contacted Col. István Topor, Chief of Peace Operations, HDF Joint Force Command.
From December 2010, all the Hungarian Defence Forces’ international peace support and crisis response operations are coordinated by the HDF JFC Peace Operations Directorate (POD). Over the last few years the POD was responsible “only" for the Balkans Joint Operations Area (JOA), the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the UNFICYP mission in Cyprus, but as from 2011 they take over the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and all the other UN-, EU-, and OSCE-led missions.
We can find three sections with different scopes of responsibility in the structure of the HDF JFC POD, namely the plans (J5) department, an operations (J3) department for UN–EU–NATO-led operations in the Balkans and another J3 department for the NATO-led ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

The plans department coordinates the activity of the POD (on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis ) and prepares analyses and calculations. Furthermore it plans and coordinates the training, certification and redeployment of forces declared to NATO and the EU. The department also supervises the execution of the tasks resulting from the CFE (Conventional Armed Forces in Europe), the CSBM (Confidence and Security Building Measures) and the Open Skies Treaties.
In line with theater-specific requirements, the two operations departments plan, organize and supervise the establishment, withdrawal, training and redeployment of HDF contingents and the production of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The operations departments have developed a team of officers of primary responsibility (OPR) acting as points of contact (POC) for the missions. This is a well-trained staff team, with valuable experience gained from missions, and is responsible for maintaining contact with the personnel of the HDF contingents serving abroad.

Based on his personal experience, the author knows that the complexity of the HDF JFC POD staff’s task scheme almost defies imagination. They are in charge of setting up the contingents and managing their mission rehearsal training (MRT), medical and security checks, the supply of equipment and also of keeping in contact with the families as well as assembling new troop rotations and managing their deployment to the theaters. It is obvious that the staff members are regularly posted abroad, and between two missions they often visit the HDF contingents in the areas of operation.

Photo: Veronika Dévényi, László Tóth and archive