The Albanian Armed Forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit showed off U.S. donated equipment May 22, 2021, at a military sponsored open house in Vlore, Albania, held as part of DEFENDER-Europe 21 activities. During the event, U.S. Ambassador to Albania Yuri Kim was briefed on the equipment and the continued U.S. commitment to peace and security in Albania, which includes decontamination of landmine and unexploded ordnance sites left over from previous conflict here.
Artian Dautaj, Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania, foreign military humanitarian assistance manager, said the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Humanitarian Mine Action Program continues to help the Government of Albania Guard provide education, training and technical assistance both on the EOD program and the renovation of ammunition depots in order to minimize the potential risks and effects of explosive remnants of war here. Training is aimed at developing Albanian EOD capabilities and furthering the U.S. and Albania’s joint commitment to safely guarding, storing and destroying munitions.
According to the U.S. Department of State, the Kosovo conflict in 1998-1999 left significant landmine contamination along Albania’s border with Kosovo. The country also has also shown UXO contamination from hotspots including former military impact ranges and exploded depots from periods of civil unrest. Since 2000, the United States has provided more than $47.2 million for Conventional Weapons Destruction efforts in Albania.
Working with The Department of Defense, Albanian Armed Forces have used their training and equipment to assist other countries in the region, as well, according to Dautuj.
Albania not only has deployed EOD teams in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence multinational battle group in Latvia but has provided crucial assistance in the Republic of Mali after recent armed conflict left the country with weapons and explosives contamination which threatened the safety of civilians and impeded stabilization efforts there. Following a request from the Government of Mali, and within the framework of European Union, Albania deployed an EOD contingent to Mali to provide EOD Level 1 training to the Malian Defense Forces so that they could provide peace and security to the people there.
DEFENDER-Europe 21 is a large-scale U.S. Army-led exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the U.S., NATO allies and partner militaries. This year, more than 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations will conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in more than a dozen countries from the Baltics to the strategically important Balkans and Black Sea Region.
Since 1999, the United States has provided more than $14 million to build health, education, and disaster preparedness capacities in Albania. The EUCOM Humanitarian Assistance Program continues to assist the Government of Albania as it builds security programs and partnerships in the region. This partnership of Albanians and Amerians working shoulder to shoulder to provide safety and security serves as an important example to the civilian populace of military capabilities that can help people on a daily basis. We are stronger together.