Military of Iceland

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When Iceland became a founding member of NATO in 1949, it did so on the explicit understanding that Iceland, which has not had an army since 1859, would not be expected to establish an indigenous force, although provisions for such forces had been made in the Icelandic constitution since 1874, only removed in 1995.

Iceland's main contribution to the common defense effort has been the rent-free provision of the "agreed areas"—sites for military facilities. By far the largest and most important of these was the NATO Naval Air Station at Keflavík, manned by American, Danish, and Norwegian personnel. Units from these and other NATO countries also are deployed temporarily to Keflavík, and they stage practice operations. Previously many of these practices were anti-submarine warfare patrols, but these exercises were halted when the P-3 ASW aircraft were withdrawn from Keflavík. Now after the withdrawal of the Iceland Defense Force, it is planned to conduct Air defence excercises there.

Iceland and the United States regarded the ongoing U.S. military presence since World War II as a cornerstone to bilateral foreign/security policy. Bilateral negotiations regarding implementation of a new "Agreed Minute" governing force structure and deployment for the defense of Iceland began in 2001. The U.S. Air Force announced plans to remove the four remaining interceptors based at Keflavík in 2003 but shelved the plans after the Icelandic government objected. There was speculation at the time that if the jets were withdrawn, Iceland would start a small army rather than an air force for defense. Talks about the American presence were restarted as of 2005, since the U.S. government was still keen on deploying its troops and equipment to parts of the world with more pressing need for them. Proposals by the Icelandic government included a complete Icelandic takeover of the Airbase, as well as replacing the Pavehawk rescue helicopter unit with a detachment from the aeronautical half of the Icelandic Coast Guard, in exchange for the continued stationing of the four F-15C interceptors in Keflavík. On March 15 2006 the U.S. government announced that the interceptors as well as the helicopter unit will be withdrawn by the end of September 2006, drastically reducing U.S. presence at the Keflavík base. The last American troops left on September 30, handing control of the Keflavík base over to the Sheriff of Keflavík airport, who will be in charge of it on behalf of the Ministry for foreign affairs.

On September 26 2006 the Government of Iceland released a document pertaining Icelandic responses to the withdrawal[1]. It includes plans to found a Security and Defence authority overseeing all such organisations in Iceland, including Police and Coast Guard. Increasing the capabilities of the Coast Guard by purchasing vessels and aircraft, founding a Security or Secret service and establishing a secure communications system spanning the whole country. In addition, MP Magnús Þór Hafsteinsson of the Liberal party has, in agreement with views expressed by Björn Bjarnason Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical affairs, voiced his party's willingness to raise a standing army.

In addition to providing the "agreed areas," the Government of Iceland contributes financially to NATO's international overhead costs and recently has taken a more active role in NATO deliberations and planning. Iceland hosted the NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Reykjavík in June 1987 and participates in biennial NATO exercises entitled "Northern Viking" in Iceland; the most recent exercises were held in 2001. In 1997 Iceland hosted its first Partnership for Peace (PfP) exercise, "Cooperative Safeguard," which is the only multilateral PfP exercise so far in which Russia has participated. Another major PfP exercise was hosted in 2000. Iceland has also contributed peacekeepers to SFOR, KFOR and ISAF.


[edit] Icelandic Military History AD.870-1940

In the period from the settlement of Iceland until it became part of the Norwegian Kings realm, military defences of Iceland consisted of multiple chieftains (Goðar) and their free followers (þingmenn) organised as per standard Nordic military doctrine of the time. At the end of this period the number of chieftains had diminished and their power had grown to the detriement of their followers. This resulted in a long and bloody war known as Sturlungaöld in the 13th century.

After Icelanders had sworn allegiance to the Norwegian crown not much changed. The native elite continued to maintain considerable forces and the sýslumenn (sheriffs), most of which were descendants of the chieftains, maintained soldiers for the defence duties that had been delegated to them.

Until around 1550 AD Icelanders were in charge of their military matters. But when the Crown forcibly converted Iceland from Catholicism to Lutherianism, in the 16th century, the danger of rebellion had grown to such levels that the King deemed it necessary to forcibly disarm the Icelandic elite. An army was sent and it confiscated and destroyed big parts of Icelandic armories. After that starts a period where Danish forces are responsible for the defence of Iceland. Some Icelandic sheriffs, however, manage to continue to maintain considerable retinues. In 1627 Icelanders are shocked at the inability of the Danish forces to protect them against raiders from Barbary who murder and kidnap a large amount of people. As a result Icelanders form local militias with the Kings blessing in places such as Vestmannaeyjar.

In the decades before the Napoleonic wars the King declares his intention to send considerable amount of money to arm the Icelandic militias. However his pledges were not fully fullfilled and in 1799 the few hundred militia-men in the South West of Iceland are mostly equipped with rusty and mostly obsolete Medieval weaponry. When English raiders arrive a few years later the amount of gunpowder in Iceland is so low that it prohibits any resistance and all efforts of the governor of Iceland, Count Trampe to such end in utter failure.

In the middle of the 19th century the Icelandic army is reestablished by the sheriff in Vestmannaeyjar. Its weapons donated by Denmark. It automatically disbands however after two decades, when Danish support dries up.

In 1918 Iceland regains sovereignity as a seperate Kingdom ruled by the Danish king. Iceland establishes a Coast Guard shortly after, but financial difficulties make establishing a standing army impossible. In the wake of the Second World War the government becoming justifiable nervous decides to expand the capabilities of the National Police (Ríkislögreglan) into a military unit. This plan is not fullfilled as the United Kingdom invades Iceland before it can be finished.

[edit] Íslenska friðargæslan (Icelandic Crisis Response Unit)

The Icelandic foreign ministry operates an expeditionary military unit called the "Crisis Response Unit" or Íslenska friðargæslan (in English: the "Icelandic Peacekeeping Guard"). It has received training and equipment from the Norwegian army, and is manned by civilian specialists, policemen and coast guards. The unit provided support to peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan running the airports in both territories' respective capitals. The unit has also sent mobile observation teams to northern Afghanistan and observers to Sri Lanka.

In October 2004 three Icelanders were injured in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul. The incident led to tough questioning of the group's commander, Colonel Halli Sigurðsson, focusing on his conduct (the incident apparently occurred while he was on a shopping expedition in an off-limits area) and his exact status. The opposition has accused the government of creating an army by stealth. Icelandic peacekeepers were pictured heavily armed in national papers alongside captions such as "If this is not a soldier then what is?" According to Davíð Oddson, then foreign minister, the peacekeepers are considered soldiers by NATO and international law, but since they lack the proper training and are members of no army, they are, as for Icelandic politics, unbecoming of the title hermaður (soldier).

See also: Ranks of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit

[edit] Ratsjárstofnun - Íslenska Loftvarnarkerfið (Iceland Air Defense System)

Image:Iceland Radar stations.gif
Map of the Radar Stations of Ratsjárstofnun, centerpieces of the Icelandic Air Defence System

Iceland also has a "radar agency" which operates the Íslenska Loftvarnarkerfið ("Iceland Air Defense System"). It was founded in 1987, and operates four radar complexes, a software and support facility and a command and report center. Like the Íslenska Friðargæslan it is under the auspices of the defence department of the foreign ministry.

[edit] Landhelgisgæslan (The Coast Guard)

Image:Sarsv 3.jpg
Map of the Search and rescue area, for which the Icelandic Coast Guard is responsible. The white zone around Iceland is the Exclusive Economic Area

The Icelandic Coast Guard originates back to the 1920s. Its main tasks from its initiation have been to protect Iceland's most valuable natural resource—its fishing areas—as well as provide security, search, and rescue services to Iceland's fishing fleet. In 1952, 1958, 1972, and 1975, the government expanded Iceland's exclusive economic zone to 4, 12, 50 and 200 nautical miles respectively. This led to Iceland's conflict with the United Kingdom, known as the "Cod Wars". The Icelandic Coast Guard and the Royal Navy confronted each other on several occasions during these years. Although few rounds were fired, there were many intense moments between the two nations. The Captains of the Icelandic Coast Guard ships were regarded as heroes and earned their names in the history of Iceland as Iceland's bravest men. This attitude of heroism towards the Coast Guard persists in Iceland.

[edit] Sérsveit ríkislögreglustjóra (Special Unit of the National Police Commissioner)

Viking Team members train outside one of the buildings of the National Theatre in Reykjavík

The Special Unit of the National Police Commissioner, Víkingasveitin, is similar to Germany's GSG 9 and Britain's SAS; a small and well-trained group of operatives. The unit handles security of the state, anti/counter-terrorism projects, security of foreign dignitaries, as well supporting the police forces in the country when needed. The Viking Team is divided into five squads: a bomb squad that specializes in explosives; a boat squad that specializes in operations on sea and water, diving and underwater warfare; a sniper squad that specializes in sniper warfare, entries, and close target reconnaissance; an intelligence squad that specializes in anti-terrorism intelligence, surveillance and infiltration; and an airborne squad that specializes in airplane hijacking operations, skydiving surprise assault operations and port security. Members of the Viking Team were deployed in the Balkans as a part of operations lead by NATO, and some members have been deployed in Afghanistan. The unit used to be under the command of the Reykjavík Chief of Police, but in 2004 a new law was passed that put it directly under the National Police Commissioner.

[edit] Statistics

Military branches: no regular military forces; Police, Icelandic Coast Guard and Icelandic Crisis Response Unit.

Military manpower:
Coast Guard: 150, Police: 666 (2001), The SOU of the National Commissioner of Police: 52-56 (2007), Radar Agency: 80, Crisis Response Unit: 100+. All combined: 1048-1052+.
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 71,486 (2000 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 62,990 (2000 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $0 (Coast Guard $24,000,000.-)

[edit] See also

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