British Army Increasing Op ELGIN Deployment
UK Announces More Troops for EUFOR Mission in Bosnia & Herzegovina
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the UK would send 40 more British Army personnel to Bosnia & Herzegovina as part of Operation ELGIN, the codename for Britain’s contribution to the European Union’s Operation ALTHEA, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Speaking at the NATO Defence Ministerial in Brussels, the last ahead of the Summit in July, Gavin Williamson said:
Whilst the UK’s relationship with the EU is changing, our unconditional commitment to European security remains resolute.
Be it our continued involvement in NATO’s Air Policing or additional UK troops assisting EU-led operations in Bosnia & Herzegovina, our actions send a clear message – we are committed to tackling new challenges and conventional threats alongside our longstanding allies and partners.
Mr Williamson announced that the UK will send 40 extra personnel to the EUFOR operation in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Operation Althea. They will join a specialist surveillance and intelligence taskforce for six months.
The UK played a key role in the Western Balkans in the 1990s, and we have continued to help keep the region on the road to reform and stability. As well as our commitment to Operation Althea in Bosnia & Herzegovina, the UK also has approximately 30 troops as part of the NATO Kosovo Force, working with allies Germany, Italy, Turkey, Poland and the US, providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
Both efforts underline the importance of NATO and the EU working alongside each other to promote security and stability in Europe, with the UK playing a key part.
Prior to the NATO Defence Ministerial, Mr Williamson attended a meeting in The Hague with his counterparts from the ten Northern Group member nations, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden and The Netherlands.
They discussed relations with Russia, particularly how the Group can work together to counter Russian strategic communications, as well as reiterating support for Britain following the Salisbury incident.
NATO handed over its peacekeeping mission to the 7,000-strong European Union Force in 2004, 9 years after the war in the Western Balkans ended. Personnel were split between 3 main locations, Tuzla, Banja Luka and Mostar, with the headquarters in Sarajevo.
In 2007 the security situation had improved sufficiently to allow troop levels to be reduced to 1,600.
Further restructuring in 2012 decreased this strength to a multinational battalion of 600 soldiers based permanently in Bosnia, with an additional 600 held at readiness in 6 contributing countries.
The EU mission is named Operation Althea, after the Greek goddess of healing. The British contribution is known as Op Elgin.
While neighbouring Croatia will join the EU this summer and Serbia and Kosovo have reached an accord that should make accession talks possible, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains politically stagnant. Considerable reforms are necessary before the country can join.
2 PARA on Standby
According to the British Army, the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (2 PARA), took on a standby role in support of European Union Force (EUFOR) peacekeepers in Bosnia in December 2017. Two decades on from the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that brought conflict in Bosnia to an end, EUFOR’s role has shifted to developing the Bosnian armed forces rather than keeping the peace. However, 2 PARA will be ready to step in at short notice if the security situation deteriorates.
The Colchester-based paratroopers practised their public order and patrolling at Lydd Ranges in Kent before taking on the role in December last year. These are key skills they could have to use if sent to Bosnia, a commitment known as Operation ELGIN.
Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Mann, Commanding Officer of 2 PARA, said: “As a high readiness unit that is experienced in working alongside multinational partners, Operation ELGIN is a natural fit for 2 PARA. We are trained and ready to deploy to Bosnia if called on, and I am confident that the skills, maturity and flexibility of our paratroopers will stand us in good stead.”
Image: An early model Apache attack helicopter (without longbow mast-mounted fire control radar) flies over a Royal Artillery gunline of AS90 155mm self-propelled guns during British Army operations as part of SFOR, Bosnia (Crown Copyright, 2012).