NATO military exercises launched in Albania
TIRANA, Albania – NATO has launched joint military exercises in Albania with thousands of military forces from the United States and other countries as part of the first such exercises since World War II in the Western Balkans, a said a US military official on Thursday.
Colonel Joseph Scrocca said that “a staunch NATO ally since 2009, Albania is a valuable security partner – both regionally and globally.
Albania is playing a pivotal role in Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 21 with joint Over-the-Shore logistics operations taking place “for the first time in Europe since WWII at the port of Durres,” Scrocca said during an online briefing.
The USNS Bob Hope Sealift Vessel will demonstrate the unloading of heavy equipment onto smaller vessels which will transfer cargo to shore for further movement.
Since April 26, US troops have been deployed to train at five other military land, sea and air bases in Albania until June 10.
Most of the Western Balkan countries – Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia – are members of NATO.
“This historic mission demonstrates our ability to serve as a strategic security partner in the Western Balkans and Black Sea regions,” said Scrocca.
Defense Minister Niko Peleshi said that in addition to its military bases, Albania would commit 1,000 troops to the exercises in what he called “a historic event as it is the largest exercise in Albania and In the region”.
“The exercises give an important message about the strategic importance of Albania,” Peleshi said during the inspection of the Mother Teresa Tirana International Airport, where a large part of the forces participating in the exercises will land.
Albania is part of international and NATO peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Aegean Sea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Mali, Latvia and previously in Iraq, Chad and Georgia .
DEFENDER-Europe is an annual, large-scale, multinational exercise led by the U.S. military, defensive in nature and focused on the deterrence of aggression, which this year focuses on strengthening operational readiness and interoperability with the NATO and more allies and partners in a wider area of operations than ever before.
Approximately 28,000 US, allied and partner forces from 26 countries will conduct near-simultaneous operations in more than 30 training areas in more than a dozen countries, from the Baltic and African countries to the critical regions of the Black Sea and the Balkans.
“Exercises like DEFENDER-Europe 21 are a great example of our collective capabilities,” said Scrocca.