Military of Albania
The Albanian Armed Force
s (AAF) Albanian: Forcat e Armatosura tė Shqipėrisė (FASH) is the armed forces of Albania, first formed after independence in 1912. Today it is made up of the General Staff Headquarters, the Albanian Joint Forces Command, the Albanian Support Command and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command.
The Albanian Joint Forces Command Headquarter is situated in Durrės. This Command includes all the Operational Forces of the Albanian Navy Brigade, the Albanian Air Brigade, an Infantry Rapid Reaction Brigade plus a Commando Regiment, and the Area Support Brigade.
The Albanian Army is mostly supported by the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland,Denmark and Belgium.
Since the last years and after several major re-equipment programs, the Albanian Armed Forces launched a 10-year reform program sponsored and supervised by the U.S. Department of Defense to become technologically advanced and fully professional by 2010. The new military is expected to consist of about 14,500 troops, trained to NATO standards.
Missions and duties
According to the Albanian Constitution, the Albanian Armed Forces are charged to:
Protect the territorial integrity of the country.
Always be present in areas incurring menace.
Assist the population in case of natural and industrial disasters and warn the dangers of military and non military nature.
Protect the constitutional order as it is determined by law.
Participate in international operations in composition of multinational forces.
Albanian participation in peacekeeping operations/missions
Southeast European Brigade SEEBRIG -  created in 1998 and consisting of Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Romania, Turkey and the United States. NATO has already declared the force fully operational.
EU Mission "ALTHEA" in Bosnia and Herzegovina under German Command. (Completed. Albania maintains its actual presence with an EOD team of 12.
NATO/PfP led Mission ISAF in Afghanistan under Italian and Turkish Command.
Coalition Forces led - Iraqi Freedom under American command (Completed. Albania withdrew all its troops from Iraq on 20 December 2008).
EU Mission MINURCAT in Chad under EU Command.
NATO Operation in the Mediterranean "Active Endeavour".
Post World War II history
One of the defining characteristics of civilian-military relations during this period was the effort of the civilian leadership to ensure the loyalty of the military to the communist system's values and institutions. After World War II, Albania became part of the Eastern Bloc and a satellite country of the Soviet Union. The ranks and the structure of the Albanian Armed Forces were organized based on the Soviet concepts, thus increasing the political control of the State-Party over the Armed Forces.
Like all other branches of the state, the military was subjugated to Communist Party control. All high-ranking military officers and most of the lower and middle ranks were members of the Communist Party - and had loyalties to it. The system was re-enforced by the establishment of Party cells within the military and extensive communist political education alongside soldiers military training, by theCommissars. To further increase its political control, the Albanian Communist Party enlarged the conscription system, thus enlisting in the Armed Forces personnel dedicated to the military career from the Albanian rural areas, a category of people easily manipulated and subjected to political brainwashing.
The State and Party went even further, starting from the 1st of May 1966, military ranks were abolished following the example of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, heavily influenced by Maoism during the years of the Cultural Revolution, and thus adopting strategic concepts related to forms of guerilla war (Vietnam War doctrine). The military were still organized during this period into their basic structure forms, but the role of the military commander was insignificant with respect to the commanding role of the political commissars. In 1991 the rank system was reestablished under PresidentRamiz Alia.
During all these years, the Sigurimi which was the Albanian secret service during that period and was formed upon the KGB structure, was responsible for the execution, the imprisonment and deportation of more than 600 Officers from the Armed Forces, by completely neutralizing the Armed Forces ability to start a coup d'état. Initially the communist purge concentrated on the military personnel graduated by the Western Military Academies (mainly from Italy 19271939), extended later on to the officers graduated in Soviet Union (after the Albanian abandon of the Warsaw Pact in 1961). As the communist regime collapsed in Albania during 1990, there was a real fear that the armed forces might intervene to halt the collapse of communism by force. In the event, the armed forces stood by as the regime of which they had been a part disintegrated. Further, during the civilian riots in 1997, the political attempts by the government to use the Armed Forces to crush the rebellion were soon demonstrated to be a failure, following a total disintegration of the Armed Forces and the looting of the military facilities by the civilian population.
The long communist purge, the elimination of the professional military leadership in years, and the dominion of a rural mentality in the Armed Forces were the corrosive factors which leaded to the disintegration of the Albanian Armed Forces in 1997.
Post 1991 history
Politically, since the fall of the communism in Albania in 1991, the country has played a constructive role in resolving several of the inter-ethnic conflicts in Southern East Europe, promoting peaceful dispute resolution and discouraging ethnic Albanian extremists. Albania sheltered many thousands of Kosovar refugees during the 1999 conflict, and provided through a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Operational HQ in Durrės (operational until 2006, see NATO Headquarter Tirana), logistical assistance for Kosovo Force (KFOR) troops. Albania was part of the International Stabilization Force (SFOR) serving in Bosnia (then EU mission ALTHEA), and Albanian peacekeepers are part of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, ISAF and the international stabilization force in Iraq. Albania has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. policy in Iraq, and one of only four nations to contribute troops to the combat phase of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Since 1999, Albania has spent approximately $108 million annually on military expenditures, roughly 1.35% of its GDP One of the most important conditions to fulfill due to NATO integration, was the increasing of the military budget. According to Government of Albania plans, military expenditure will reach 2% of GDP in 2008 (already approved by the parliament in the 2008 budget - 2.01% of GDP).
In 2002, the Albanian armed forces, launched a 10-year reform program sponsored and supervised by the U.S. Defense Department in order to trim down and thoroughly modernize the standing force of the time of more than 30,000 troops. The same radical reform is being implemented on surplus equipment, includingairplanes, tanks, helicopters, artillery equipment, navy vessels, SALW and ammunition. Albania started an ambitious destruction program. However, Albania is still dealing with a huge amount of surplus and obsolete ammunition, a direct result of the country's long isolation and ethnic tensions in the area. The Albanian Ministry of Defense estimates such quantity up to 85,000 tons, but it is expected to increase up to 104,000 tons due to the on-going downsizing process of the AAF. In March 2008 the problem of massive amounts of excess ammunition stockpiled in Albania became known to the public through the tragic consequences of the explosion of an ammunition depot (the 2008 Tirana explosions).
It is worth noting that Albania's notoriously fractious politics have not obstructed any of the reforms undertaken by the Armed Forces.
In May 2003, Albania, Croatia, and the Republic of Macedonia with the direct support of the United States, created the Adriatic Charter, modeled on the BalticCharter, as a mechanism for promoting regional cooperation to advance each country's NATO candidacy. In spite of strong European Union (EU) objections, Albania also signed in May 2003 a bilateral agreement with the U.S. on non-extradition of US citizens to the EU, based on Article 98 of the statute ofInternational Criminal Court. In 2004 US President George W. Bush authorized the use of Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program funds for projects in Albania, marking the first time such funds are used outside the former Soviet Union. With this funding the US assisted the Government of Albania within the destruction of a stockpile of war chemical agents left over from the communist regime (Category 1, Total amount 16,7 tons). The final cost of the project was US$48 million . The project was officially completed on 10 July 2007.
On April 3, 2006, the final contract for the delivery of 12 Bölkow-Blom MBB BO-105 lightweight twin-engine multi-role helicopters to the Republic of Albania was signed in Tirana between the Albanian Ministry of Defense and Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH. According to the Albanian Government, six of the BO-105 helicopters are designated for the Albanian Air Brigade, four for the Ministry of Interiorand the remaining two for the Albanian Ministry of Health.
On 14 November 2006, the new structure of the Albanian Armed Forces was officially introduced with the sign of the President of the Republic. The new structure, based on the "Joint" concept, has three main Commands. The AL JFC (Albanian Joint Forces Command) includes the RRB Rapid Reaction Brigade (the RRB is basically a Mechanized Infantry Brigade), the Commando Regiment, the Albanian Navy Brigade, the Albanian Air Brigade and the Albanian Area Support Brigade. The Support Command provides support and logistical functions for the all army units and the Albanian Training and Doctrine Command which is the main educational and training provider for the Albanian Armed Forces. The final number of personnel will be 13,800 (including 2,000 civilians).
The Albanian Navy Brigade performs mainly Coast Guard duties, and recently the Albanian parliament has approved some amendments to the articles of the actual Law on the Coast Guard in Albania, in order to improve the necessary legal framework due to efforts at European Union-NATO integration.
Since February 2008, Albania participates officially in NATO's Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean and received a NATO membership invitation on 3 April 2008.
Note The AAF has no reserve units, although it does maintain a reserve personnel roster of up to 10,000 personnel that can be called in if required to augment or fill active units.