Ambassador’s Remarks for Defender Europe 23 Outreach Day, May 21, 2022
President Osmani-, Prime Minister Kurti, Minister Mehaj, Lieutenant General Jashari, Brigadier General Adams, members of the U.S. military, members of the Kosovo Security Forces, participants of Exercise Defender Europe 23, distinguished guests, I’m delighted to join you here today.
I’m always happy to come to Skenderbeg Square, the heart of Pristina and a meeting place of the Kosovan people and international visitors alike.
And today we are here for a particularly noteworthy occasion , as we kick off a major milestone for Kosovo and deepen the already close bilateral ties between Kosovo and the United States.
As we continue to see the horrific effects of Putin’s unjustified and brutal war in Ukraine, it is particularly relevant to highlight an exercise like DEFENDER EUROPE.
Defender Europe is a multi-national, joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the United States and 26 allied and partner nations.
It is directed by the U.S. European Command and led by U.S. Army Europe & Africa.
One of the purposes of the exercise is to demonstrate the U.S. military’s ability to rapidly deploy combat-credible troops and equipment to assure allies, deter those who would threaten peace in Europe, and defend the continent from aggression.
But another critical purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the commitment of our European Allies and partners to increase the scale, capability, and interoperability of their own militaries.
In this exercise, nearly 9,000 U.S. military personnel will ultimately join 17,000 European service members in ten different countries.
You’ll notice that this model of collective defense stands in stark contrast to the models that other world powers employ.
Our model for security for Europe empowers and strengthens our partners throughout the region rather than dictating actions to be taken.
Here in the Balkan portion of the exercise, we are grateful to see the Kosovo Security Force as one of the largest contributors of troops with over 1,300 personnel taking part.
This exercise is likely the largest, most ambitious endeavor that the KSF has undertaken to date.
In a little over four years since the creation of the KSF, we’ve been both impressed and pleased to see the KSF progress substantially and collect a number of accolades during its operational history.
In late 2019, the KSF responded quickly and effectively to help Kosovo’s neighbors following a large earthquake in Albania.
Similarly, we were impressed and grateful to see the KSF respond in short order, six hours from notification, to southern Turkiye in February of this year following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated the population.
There, the KSF provided outstanding search-and-rescue services that ultimately saved several lives and showcased their highly developed skills.
The KSF has also made Kosovo safer by clearing approximately 13,000 mines and responding to multiple floods and natural disasters.
The U.S. government is pleased to work with our partners in the Government of Kosovo and the Ministry of Defense as the KSF advances in its full transition into a professional, multi-ethnic, NATO-interoperable, territorial defense force subject to civilian oversight.
We seek to achieve this goal through implementation of a rigorous 10-year comprehensive transition plan.
We’ve already seen the professionalism of the KSF as they undertake other mission sets, and we look forward to the day that the KSF applies that discipline and professionalism to defending the country and all of its people as well as potentially deploying in the future with us and other Allies and partners to support peace keeping operations regionally and globally.
Our shared vision is clear. That Kosovo continues to transform from an initial “consumer” or ‘importer’ of security from the world’s peace forces to a net “producer” or “exporter” of security helping advance stability and reassurance to the region and the world.
I also want to note that U.S. military personnel from U.S. Army Europe & Africa as well as the Iowa National Guard, the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), and the Security Assistance Training Management Organization (SATMO) have come to Kosovo from Europe and the U.S. to exercise with and support the KSF in this endeavor.
Each one of these professional military personnel is a tangible representation of the United States’ commitment to Kosovan security as well as to our ongoing joint effort to support the KSF in becoming the professional, disciplined force that Kosovo deserves.
I also want to recognize the presence of the U.S. Army Europe & Africa Band which came from Germany to entertain us and celebrate with us. I hope you will join me later in the program in enjoying their music as a means to both celebrate and reinforce our strong bilateral relationship.