Iceland Crisis Response Unit

The Iceland Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) or Íslenska Friðargæslan, is an Icelandic para-military unit with a capacity roster of up to 200 people, of whom about 30 are active at any given time. It is operated by the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[1] It is primarily designated for peacekeeping operations and was established in the 1990s to participate in operations and peacekeeping projects, including in support of NATO peacekeeping operations. That role later evolved into providing an appropriate forum for deploying personnel within other organizations such as with OSCE field missions as well as with UN DPKO, and organizations such as UNIFEM, UNRWA and UNICEF.

The ICRU personnel has been deployed to the former territories of Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Afghanistan through NATO missions and UNIFEM and to the Middle East and North Africa with UNICEF, UNRWA and UNHCR. It had a civilian observer mission in Sri Lanka in co-operation with Norway (previously a Nordic mission) and has explosive ordnance disposal personnel from the Icelandic Coast Guard to Lebanon and Iraq.

Iceland deployed its first peacekeepers in 1950, when two Icelandic police officers were sent to Palestine as a part of an UN peacekeeping operation. Though many Icelandic specialists have taken part in various peacekeeping operations since, mostly within the UN and its organizations but also within NATO, it was not until the 1990s that organized participation in peacekeeping operations was initiated, formalized with the establishment of the ICRU in 2001.

In 2008, a portion of uniformed ICRU deployed personnel still armed for self-defense returned their weapons and changed to civilian clothing. The policy since 2008, is that, unless under special circumstances, ICRU personnel do not wear uniforms or carry weapons.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Iceland oversees the roster and deployment of personnel,[2]

Iceland Crisis Response Unit
Íslenska Friðargæslan
Country Iceland
Size200 (roster) (2007)
30 (deployed) (2007)
EngagementsOperation Enduring Freedom
Prime Minister of IcelandKatrín Jakobsdóttir
Minister for Foreign AffairsGuðlaugur Þór Þórðarson
Col. Arnór Sigurjónsson
Col. Halli Sigurðsson Col. Gunnar Friðriksson


The deployed personnel of the ICRU were experts, including Icelandic policemen, Coast Guardsmen and others that had relative training for the concerned institutions. in addition to those mentioned above, these backgrounds range from logistical backgrounds, medical or engineering backgrounds, social sciences and so on. But now, after a law was passed in 2007 the "peacekeepers" need a college degree. In 2014, it's much more of an aid squad rather than peacekeepers.

The previously deployed doctors, nurses, those deployed as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) as well as those working at Kabul International Airport (KAIA) were trained by the Norwegian Defence Force (previously the United Kingdom Armed Forces as well) as they were expected to merge into a military environment and the PRT's as well as those working at Kabul airport would be armed.[3]

The ICRU roster members receive training and exercise in line with their deployment, but no military training from 2009. The legal basis for the ICRU is set in Icelandic law on ICRU, No. 73/2007


The ICRU classifies its operations in the following manner:

  • Peacekeeping and Crisis management
  • Observer missions
  • Reconstruction
  • Humanitarian and Emergency assistance

Intelligence gathering

The National Commissioner of Iceland is charged with intelligence gathering for national security purposes as well as expeditionary peacekeeping operations. The Defence Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs oversees military related intelligence and cooperation in that field.


It is often claimed that Iceland has a tradition of non-militarisation and should therefore practice pacifism. The ICRU's existence, among other things, has thus generated much controversy amongst Icelandic socialists, Social Democrats, Left-green and other people on the left-wing in Icelandic politics, with the main focus on ICRU deployments with NATO in Iraq, finalized in 2007, and in Afghanistan, ongoing, as not adhering to these principles.[4] This criticism was particularly fierce when Icelandic peacekeepers were injured in a suicide bombing in Kabul in 2004.

In 2008, some of these concerns were addressed when a portion of ICRU deployed personnel still wearing a uniform and carrying weapons for self-defense, changed to civilian clothing and returned their weapons. According to the then Foreign Minister Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, ICRU personnel do not wear uniforms or carry weapons unless under special circumstances and then only those that have had the appropriate training.[5]



Small arms

PRT teams previously deployed in Afghanistan as well as those previously working in Kabul International Airport were supplied with the weaponry and ammunition the military forces they are cooperating with use. The standard weaponry was in most cases however of Norwegian origin.[6]

Ranks of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit


NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
Iceland Iceland
No equivalent
Iceland OF-5.svg Iceland OF-4.svg Iceland OF-3.svg Iceland OF-2.svg Iceland OF-1b.svg Iceland OF-1a.svg No equivalent
Ofursti Undirofursti Majór Höfuðsmaður Liðsforingi Undirliðsforingi


NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Iceland Iceland
No equivalent
Iceland OR-6.svg Iceland OR-5.svg Iceland OR-4.svg No equivalent
Iceland OR-1.svg
Flokkstjóri 1. Flokkstjóri 2. Korporáll óbreyttur

See also


  1. ^ Ministry for Foreign Affairs (2008). "Iceland Crisis Response Unit: Annual report 2007" (PDF). Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs. ISSN 1670-7974. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-20. Retrieved 2014-10-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-08-05.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) Interview with Erlingur Erlingsson, ICRU on amongst other PRT withdrawal
  4. ^ Kristín Loftsdóttir and Helga Björnsdóttir, 'The 'Jeep-Gangsters' from Iceland: Local Development Assistance in a Global Perspective', Critique of Anthropology, 30 (2010), 23--39. DOI: 10.1177/0308275X09345423; Kristín Loftsdóttir, 'Whiteness is from Another World: Gender, Icelandic International Development and Multiculturalism', European Journal of Women’s Studies, 19 (2012), 41–54.
  5. ^ Press release on ICRU personnel status
  6. ^

External links

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The initials ICRU can stand for

Iceland Crisis Response Unit

International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements


Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland; [ˈistlant] (listen)) is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 360,390 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country being home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude almost entirely outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.

According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin.

The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world's oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Iceland thus followed Norway's integration into that union, coming under Danish rule after Sweden's secession from the union in 1523. Although the Danish kingdom introduced Lutheranism forcefully in 1550, Iceland remained a distant semi-colonial territory in which Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuous by their absence.

In the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Iceland's struggle for independence took form and culminated in independence in 1918 and the founding of a republic in 1944. Although its parliament (Althing) was suspended from 1799 to 1845, the island republic has been credited with sustaining the world's oldest and longest-running parliament.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, it became a part of the European Economic Area, which further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.

Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes, compared to other OECD countries, as well as the highest trade union membership in the world. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks high in economic, democratic, social stability, and equality, currently ranking first in the world by median wealth per adult. In 2018, it was ranked as the sixth most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index, and it ranks first on the Global Peace Index. Iceland runs almost completely on renewable energy.

Hit hard by the worldwide financial crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. Some bankers were jailed. Since then, the economy has made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism. A law that took effect in 2018 makes it illegal in Iceland for women to be paid less than men.Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse and is closely related to Faroese. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature, and medieval sagas. Iceland has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army, with a lightly armed coast guard.

Iceland Defense Force

The Iceland Defense Force (IDF) was a military command of the United States Armed Forces from 1951 to 2006. The IDF, created at the request of NATO, came into existence when the United States signed an agreement to provide for the defense of Iceland, which has only limited defense forces.

International Security Assistance Force

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan, established by the United Nations Security Council in December 2001 by Resolution 1386, as envisaged by the Bonn Agreement. Its main purpose was to train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and assist Afghanistan in rebuilding key government institutions, but was also engaged in the war with the Taliban insurgency.

ISAF was initially charged with securing Kabul and the surrounding areas from the Taliban, al Qaeda and factional warlords, to allow for the establishment of the Afghan Transitional Administration headed by Hamid Karzai. In October 2003, the UN Security Council authorized the expansion of the ISAF mission throughout Afghanistan, and ISAF subsequently expanded the mission in four main stages over the whole of the country. From 2006 to 2011, ISAF had become increasingly involved in more intensive combat operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Troop contributors included the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other NATO member states as well as a number of other countries. The intensity of the combat faced by contributing nations varied greatly, with the United States sustaining the most casualties overall. In early 2010, there were at least 700 military bases inside Afghanistan. About 400 of these were used by American‑led NATO forces and 300 by ANSF.ISAF ceased combat operations and was disbanded in December 2014, with some troops remaining behind in an advisory role as part of ISAF's successor organization, the Resolute Support Mission.

List of militaries by country

This is a list of militaries by country, including the main branches and sub-branches.

Military of Iceland

Iceland's defences consist of the Icelandic Coast Guard, which patrols Icelandic waters and airspace, and other services such as the National Commissioner's National Security and Special Forces Units.

Iceland is however the only NATO member which maintains no standing army.

The Coast Guard consists of three ships and four aircraft and armed with small arms, naval artillery, and Air Defence weaponry. The Coast Guard also maintains the Iceland Air Defence System, formerly part of the disestablished Defence Agency, which conducts surveillance from the ground of Iceland's air space.Units subordinated to the National Commissioner also take part in Iceland's defences. Foremost of these are the National Security Unit, which handles intelligence operations, and the special unit Víkingasveitin, a highly trained and equipped counter terrorism unit which is part of the National Police force.

Additionally there is a Crisis Response Unit (ICRU), operated by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which is a small peacekeeping force that has been deployed internationally, since 2008. This unit also has an unarmed component.

There is a treaty with the United States, which until 2006 maintained the Naval Air Station Keflavik, regarding the defense of Iceland. The base, now operated by the Icelandic Coast Guard, has been regularly visited by the US military and other allied NATO members. In 2017 the United States announced its interest in renovating a hangar, in order to accommodate a Boeing P-8 Poseidon ASW aircraft at the air base.There are also agreements concerning military and other security operations with Norway, Denmark and other NATO countries.

Iceland holds the annual NATO exercises entitled Northern Viking. The most recent exercises were held in 2011, as well as the EOD exercise "Northern Challenge".

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 ICRU peacekeepers to SFOR, KFOR and ISAF.

Outline of Iceland

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Iceland:

Iceland – sovereign island nation located in the North Atlantic Ocean between continental Europe and Greenland. It is considered part of Northern Europe. It is the least populous of the Nordic countries, having a population of about 329,000 (January 1, 2015). Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape in various ways. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.

Land forces
Maritime land forces
Air force land forces
Military ranks and insignia by country
Post-Soviet states
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