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Yugoslavia: Territorial Defense Forces
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Defense Organization > Territorial Defense Forces


The Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) were formed in 1969 as an integral part of the TND doctrine. TDF units were a vehicle for mobilizing able-bodied civilian males and females to participate in national defense. Between one and three million Yugoslavs between the ages of fifteen and sixty-five would fight under TDF command as irregular or guerrilla forces in wartime. In peacetime, however, about 860,000 TDF troops were involved in training and other activities.

As originally formed, the TDF was highly decentralized and independent. TDF units were organized and funded by the party and governments in the republics, autonomous provinces, and communes. The units were commanded by TDF commanders, but they were responsible to both regional LCY leadership and the nearest YPA command. The formation of TDF units strained the budget, personnel, logistics, and training resources of the YPA without giving it direct control over them. Because of its high initial priority, the TDF also became a rival of sorts and detracted from the status and prestige of the YPA.

Tension between the TDF and the YPA persisted throughout the 1970s. The possibility that one republic might form its TDF units into an independent army capable of opposing the YPA brought gradual centralization of the TDF. The process culminated in the establishment of the Council for Territorial Defense under the control of the federal secretary for national defense in 1980

Additional changes made republican and provincial TDF commanders directly responsible to the chief of the YPA General Staff. Active duty and reserve YPA officers assumed command of TDF units throughout the country. It became increasingly apparent that the YPA would direct TDF units in combat, except in enemycontrolled areas or in case of a disruption in the chain of command.

Despite losing control over their TDF organizations, the republics and autonomous provinces continued to bear the financial burden of supporting them. Those jurisdictions were still required to provide infrastructure and logistical support to TDF units operating on their territory. During the 1980s, the cost of the TDF was estimated at approximately 1 percent of GNP annually.

The TDF concept focused on small, lightly armed infantry units fighting defensive actions on familiar local terrain. The typical unit was a company-sized detachment organized by more than 2,000 communes, neighborhood factories, and other enterprises. These units would fight in their home areas, maintaining local defense production essential to the overall war effort. The TDF also included some larger, more heavily equipped units with wider operational responsibilities. TDF battalions and regiments operated in regional areas with older artillery and antiaircraft guns and some obsolete armored vehicles. Using their mobility and tactical initiative, these units would attempt to alleviate the pressure of enemy armored columns, air strikes, and air assaults on smaller TDF units.

In coastal regions, TDF units had naval missions. They operated some obsolete gunboats in support of navy operations. They were organized to defend strategic coastal areas and naval facilities against enemy amphibious landings and raids. They also trained some divers for use in sabotage and other special operations.

The TDF was helped by the fact that most of its malecitizen-soldiers were one-time YPA conscripts who had completed their term of compulsory military service. But TDF recruitment was somewhat limited by the YPA desire to include as many recently released conscripts as possible in its reserve. Other sources of TDF manpower lacked prior military service and required extensive basic training.

Data as of December 1990

Last Updated: December 1990

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Yugoslavia was first published in 1990. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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