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Iceland is one of the founding members of NATO without its own military force and because of its size and small population has relied on the security provided by the Alliance under Article V of the Washington Treaty. During the Cold War, forces from the United States were stationed in Iceland until September 2006 and a bilateral agreement remains in place for defense cooperation in crisis or war.

For recent NATO operations, Iceland assumed the lead in running Pristina Airport, under KFOR, employing civilian aviation experts. From 2003 to 2004, these experts trained Albanian Air Traffic Controllers and fire fighters in preparation for assuming full responsibility for all air operations in Kososvo. In 2004, Iceland took over the operation of Kabul International Airport under ISAF with a small command group and the participation of other allies to operate the airfield around the clock. This marked the beginning for the present arrangement for operating KAIA whereas one nation provides the lead and other nations provide the required manpower to fill existing slots. During 2005-2006, Iceland provided military observer teams with specially designed terrain vehicles to the PRT's in Maymana in cooperation with Norway and in Chagcharan in cooperation with Lithuania. In this period, Iceland also provided personnel for the NATO training mission in Iraq and EOD support in cooperation with Danish forces. Iceland continues to support ISAF mission in Afghanistan with civilian experts.

The country hosts deployed forces involved in NATO air policing and exercises involving Airborne Warning and Control Systems and electronic warfare. According to the Iceland NMR Minister, Arnor Sigurjonsson, "Iceland has an extensive civilian rescue network of which a highly specialized international Urban Search and Rescue Unit is available for overseas rescue missions, particularly those involving earthquakes. All contributions from Iceland in support of NATO missions are by civilian experts in various fields. Public opinion polls in Iceland show a majority support for our membership in NATO although initially our membership was a divisive political issue in the country.”

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