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Co-operation in a Disaster Situation

Szöveg: László Szűcs |  2018. április 30. 7:24

More than two hundred Hungarian soldiers participated KFOR’s this year’s first high visibility exercise Silver Sabre 2018. The Pristina airport and the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), i.e. the Pomozatin camp hosted the spectacular training exercise.

A very strong earth-quake measuring 6.2 degrees on the Richter scale hit Kosovo, in consequence of which several buildings collapsed, and half of the country’s electricity supply infrastructure was destroyed. The NATO States and other states immediately started to send relief supplies to Kosovo, but the distribution of the supplies is interrupted, and this leads to a severe series of demonstrations, and besides the security forces of Kosovo, the international missions operating in the country were assigned the task to end this.

This situation formed the basis of the high visibility exercise Silver Sabre 2018, organised by KFOR, NATO’s Kosovo peacekeeping mission, and carried out in the past two weeks. The co-operation of the participating organisations was planned during the command post exercise, in the first week of the exercise conducted with the involvement of the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) and the Disaster Management Authorities, as well as the missions operating in the country – the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) and KFOR. In the second week all these were realised in practice.

“The high visibility series of exercises had not only training-related, but also some strategic objectives. Among the latter I wish to emphasize the demonstration of our operational capabilities in a disaster situation to the population and to the local decision-makers" – said KFOR Deputy Commander Brigadier General János Csombók, the director of the exercise answering our question. He added: some 1000 soldiers, policemen, civil employees, as well as two hundred vehicles – among them six KFOR helicopters – participated in the exercise. “It was for the first time this year that we managed to involve all the organisations present in the country, deployable for such tasks, and they could demonstrate their capabilities" – pointed out the general.

The high visibility exercise VIP-day on April 27th was opened by the Commander of KFOR, Major General Salvatore Cuoci in the Pomozatin camp of KSF, located next to Pristina. In the event Brigadier General János Csombók outlined the situation, and described the tasks of the participating organisations. During the demonstration held in the camp, the rescue operations after the earthquake was demonstrated by the local police and disaster management forces, as well as the KSF dog rescuer and mountain search and rescue units. The KFOR troops also joined the rescue of the injured.

On the second scene – on the concrete road leading to the military “terminal" of the Pristina International Airport – crowd and riot control activities were demonstrated by the forces involved in the exercise. According to the Silver Sabre 2018 scenario, the first aid supplies have already arrived at the airport on the fourth day after the earthquake, but their distribution could not be started owing to a criminal group, which wanted to lay a hand on the consignments. The “well-known" persons were arrested by the special unit of the Kosovo Police, but this has triggered a serious wave of protest among the local population. The increasingly stronger demonstrations could not be dispersed by the Crowd and Riot Control (CRC) unit of the Kosovo Police, therefore the Polish CRC subunit of EULEX was also deployed. As they were not successful either, KFOR was used as a third responder. One of the platoons of the MSU (Multinational Specialized Unit) of Italian Carabinieri from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission and two manoeuvre companies of the KTRBN of Hungarian soldiers finally managed to disperse the angry crowd.

Following the demonstration Brigadier General János Csombók considered the exercise as “very successful". He noted: KFOR, composed of 20 NATO Member States and 8 Partner Nations, has demonstrated that it can successfully co-operate with the local security and disaster management forces.

“In the exercise the Hungarian soldiers have executed the tasks that arise from their core function, i.e. the crowd and riot control capabilities of the battalion. We did not have to prepare for this separately, as this is included in our capability repertoire, and the troops of the battalion continuously maintain this capability of them" – said Lieutenant Colonel Sándor Horváth, the Commander of the 18th Rotation of the HDF KFOR Contingent of the KFOR Tactical Reserve Battalion (KTRBN). He added: the contingent has been staying in the area of operation for approx. two months. This period has passed “busy, and full of training exercises". The two companies have carried out successful validation exercise, which authorizes them to deploy on the entire territory of Kosovo if needed. In what followed, they began the patrolling activity ordered by the commander, and the implementation of the training exercises planned for themselves.

(Our video coverage on the Silver Sabre 2018 exercise can be viewed during this week)

Photos by the author