National Security Policy
Like any country, Albania's national security was largely determined by its geography and neighbors. It shares a 282- kilometer border with Greece to the south and southeast. It has a 287-kilometer border with the Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro to the north and a 151-kilometer border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the east. Albania's other closest neighbor and one-time invader, Italy, is located less than 100 kilometers across the Adriatic Sea to the west. Albania had longstanding and potentially dangerous territorial and ethnic disputes with Greece and Yugoslavia. It traditionally feared an accommodation between them in which they would agree to divide Albania.
Greece had historical ties with a region of southern Albania that was called Northern Epirus by the Greeks and inhabited by ethnic Greeks, with estimates of their number ranging from less than 60,000 to 400,000. Moreover, there was serious potential for conflict with Yugoslavia, or specifically the Yugoslav Republic of Serbia, over Kosovo. Nevertheless, for many years, Albania perceived a seaborne attack by a superpower from the Adriatic Sea as a greater threat than a large-scale ground assault across the rugged terrain of eastern Albania. Any attack on Albania would have proved difficult because more than three-quarters of its territory is hilly or mountainous. The country's small size, however, provided little strategic depth for conventional defensive operations.
The Military Strategy (MS) specifies how the Armed Forces carries out the basic missions defined in the Constitution and the Security Strategy of the Republic of Albania. The Revised Military Strategy is a readjustment of the Military Strategy document approved in July 2002 by the Parliament. It estimates the internal and external security environment, progress in transformation and restructuring of the Armed Forces, and evolution of the Long Term Plan of the Development of the Armed Forces, and reflects required changes to Armed Forces missions, organizations, and Armed Forces development concepts.
The Military Strategy defines how the Armed Forces are transformed, organized, modernized, and trained. It seeks to increase operational capability of the AF, to make them capable to perform their constitutional mission, interoperable and deployable, anticipating their integration into collective Euro-Atlantic defense structures.
The attainment of the strategic objective of Albanian membership in NATO, that is the main goal of this Strategy, is accomplished through development of a professionally capable force that can provide a positive contribution to internal and regional security and stability. At the same time, this objective is also part of a geographically vital supplement to NATO's strategic objectives for reinforcing stability in the South-Eastern region.
Involvement of the Armed Forces in collective defense structures, and cooperation with NATO and partner countries further increases the common interests of the country, and regional and global security. This security environment, on the one hand provides good conditions for transformation and preparation of the Armed Forces to integrate into NATO's military structures, whereas, on the other hand obviously increases the need for their readiness to face situations that may place at risk Albania's national interests.
The Armed Forces have appropriate and dedicated personnel and logistic support for full alliance integration. They have orienting and training plans and programs for the development of force capabilities to accelerate the process of becoming a NATO member. The main aim of these objectives is the transformation and the modernization of the Armed Forces to establish a smaller military force, whose financial resource requirements and infrastructure are reasonable and sustainable by the country's economy.
Albania made modernization of its forces and contribution to NATO missions the cornerstone of its NATO membership bid. It has reduced the military from its communist era size of 100,000 to 12,000-15,000 and has tried to transform it from a communist-style stationary force to a more modern expeditionary one. The government took its commitments to NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) seriously. Its goals, however, were sometimes overambitious. Albania did not meet its 2008 NATO force goals, and some in NATO found their goals unrealistic. According to a self-assessment in January 2009, the Joint Force Command of Albania admitted that out of 25 military formations, only 13 were operationally functional. One of the largest problems is equipment - both the lack thereof and the age of the equipment they do have. To this end, the MoD has planned several high-profile procurements, including four patrol boats for the navy and up to 17 multipurpose helicopters for the air brigade, although both projects have seen several delays.
Excess stockpiles of destabilized unexploded conventional munitions (DUCMs) dispersed throughout the country represent the single most dangerous threat to national security in Albania. The previous communist government of Albania maintained a national security strategy of "defense in place" based on their policy of "every citizen a soldier." As a result, the government built up vast stockpiles of munitions that it dispersed among 40 depots scattered throughout the country. Most of these munitions are now over 30 years old and in an extremely dangerous state of decay, liable to self-explode. Furthermore, many of these depots are placed adjacent to or even inside civilian populations.
The 15 March 2008 fireball over Gerdec shown on international news programs reminded the world of Albania's enormous overhang of dangerous, decaying weapons. Over 100,000 tons of munitions, from small caliber to 160 mm artillery shells, are disintegrating in 44 poorly maintained and guarded depots throughout Albania, some near population centers. Since most of the munitions are more than 40 years old, they have become increasingly unstable and sensitive to heat and shock.
By many estimates, as of 2008 about 100,000 tons remained in poorly guarded and maintained depots throughout the country, literally a ticking time bomb. Stored munitions range from 7.62 mm small arms rounds to massive 160 mm (over six inches in diameter) artillery shells. Explosive material in these munitions usually contains a stabilizer which extends the storage life of the munitions preventing auto-ignition. However, the stabilizer is slowly consumed until, after some number of years, it no longer functions. Chemical analyses of Albanian munitions have shown that many of them are over 40 years old and are approaching that point, making the munitions extremely sensitive to shock and heat.
According to a survey done by DOD's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the MOD currently stores munitions in 44 sites throughout the country. It is likely there are munitions stored in additional, unofficial sites. Most of the sites contain small quantities of munitions, up to a few tons, collocated at military bases. Seven sites contain the bulk of the stores: Qafe Molle, Noje, Qafe Schtame, Mengel, Mirake, Mbbreshtan, and Grize. Besides conventional munitions, the MOD is storing 273 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS - Chinese HN-5) and 30 tons of highly toxic SA-2 rocket fuel oxidizer. As with officially registered sites, this may not be a complete listing of Albanian munitions. The MOD has likely not been able to track all of the weapons inherited after the fall of the Hoxha regime. Most of the conventional munitions are of Chinese origin manufactured between 1961 and 1974. Gerdec was NOT listed as an MOD munitions storage facility because it was used by MOD's Military Export Import Company - MEICO - to store munitions it had contracted for sale. Albania has no further known chemical agents/weapons or nuclear weapons.
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