International Information

International Operation Name: Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST

International Mission Name: Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST

Mandating Organization: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Region Name: Europe

Location: Macedonia

Mission Date: 27 August 2001 - 26 September 2001

Mission Mandate: To collect weapons and ammunition from the insurgents; transport and disposal of weapons that were surrendered; and transport and destruction of ammunition that was turned in.

Mission/Operation Notes: Throughout the 1990s, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) managed to avoid the bloodshed that plagued the other former Yugoslav republics. Still, the FYROM remained internally divided between its Macedonian (Slav) majority and its ethnic Albanian minority. Fraught with unrest over the ethnic situation, the Albanians formed the National Liberation Army (NLA), and in early 2001 launched large-scale attacks against government security forces near the city of Tetovo, close to the republic’s border with Kosovo.

During June of 2001, the Secretary General of NATO received a letter from the President of FYROM requesting assistance to ensure continued stability. NATO responded by proposing a plan to collect weapons from the ethnic Albanian armed groups who were attempting to overthrow the government and subsequently to monitor the overall situation once the ethnic Albanian paramilitary groups had been disarmed.

International pressure brought to bear on both sides to resolve the conflict led to negotiations during the spring and summer of 2001, and on 13 August the Government of FYROM and representatives of the ethnic Albanian community signed a peace agreement called the Ohrid Framework Agreement. Two days later on 15 August, the North Atlantic Council authorized the immediate establishment of the NATO headquarters of what was to be called Task Force Harvest.

On 27 August the Task Force, under the designation Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST, deployed a total of 4,500 NATO troops from 14 nations, including Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The Task Force included infantry, armour, headquarters and support personnel who were to carry out activities centred on the collection and disposal of weapons and ammunition from the ethnic Albanian paramilitary groups.

Canadian Forces (CF) Information (FORAGE)


CF Mission/Operation Notes: Canada participated in Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST from start to finish. Approximately 200 Canadian Forces personnel were deployed as Task Force FYROM, under the CF designation Operation FORAGE. Beginning with three officers assigned to work at the NATO Task Force HARVEST Headquarters in Skopje, the operation included about 145 members of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (the armoured reconnaissance squadron) and support personnel from the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group in Bosnia-Herzegovina. All of these personnel were serving with the Stabilization Force (SFOR) on Operation PALLADIUM when the order came to redeploy to FYROM. The remaining Canadian troops came from the Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group (CFJOG), based in Kingston, Ontario, and National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario.

The primary mission of the Canadians was to utilize their Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles to provide surveillance capabilities and convoy escorts. Concurrently, on 20 September, members of the infantry platoon serving with the Task Force were assigned to Operation HEMP, a one day British operation involving weapons collection close to the Albanian border.

Other Canadian troops deployed on Operation FORAGE helped set up the Canadian camp, provided communications, medical and logistical support to both the Canadian contingent and other NATO personnel, and assisted with the weapons collection process. At the end of September 2001, Operation FORAGE was brought to a close with the return of the last staff officer form Skopje.

Between 27 August and 26 September 2001 NATO personnel collected approximately 3,300 weapons from ethnic Albanians in FYROM that were taken to the steel factory in Zenica where they were later melted down. Ammunition, mines and other explosive materials that had been collected were destroyed through the cooperative efforts of SFOR and Bosnian Armed Forces soldiers at approved demolition sites.

On September 26 in accordance with the original 30-day mandate, the Task Force Harvest commander stopped the weapons collections programme and Operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST was brought to a close. The same day the North Atlantic Council approved the release of a new operations plan for the monitoring portion of the original proposal. On the 27th of September 2001 the monitoring operation, under the NATO designation Operation AMBER FOX, began its initial three-month mandate.


Photo by MCpl Brian Walsh, DGPA/J5PA Combat Camera Skopje, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Drivers carefully manoeuvre Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles through Skopje, where streets are narrow and driving habits are erratic. These Coyotes belong to A Squadron, The Royal Canadian Dragoons, which is deployed in FYROM on Operation FORAGE, Canada's contribution to the NATO operation ESSENTIAL HARVEST.

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