Serbs Sign; 3,600 U.S. Troops Poised for Kosovo Duty
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 9, 1999 The Yugoslavians signed an agreement June 9 setting out how all their army, special police and paramilitary personnel will leave Kosovo.
British Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson, commander of NATO troops in Macedonia, announced the signing of the Military Technical Agreement and said the international security force will enter the province soon.
He said the agreement explains how the Yugoslav forces are to achieve military compliance with NATO’s conditions. “It details how the army, the interior police and all other forces should conduct a phased, verifiable and orderly withdrawal from Kosovo,” he said. “Verifiable compliance with this agreement will establish the conditions for the suspension of the air campaign.”
Jackson said the agreement also supplies the legal basis behind the international security force, called KFOR. The force will establish a secure environment in the province and allow ethnic Albanian Kosovars to return. NATO has named the move into Kosovo Operation Joint Guardian.
Once NATO verifies the Serb withdrawal, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana will suspend the air campaign against Yugoslavia. “If the withdrawal is subsequently breached, air operations will resume,” Jackson said.
Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and members of Task Force Hawk in Albania will be part of the international security force, bringing the American enabling force up to 3,600 service members, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said June 8.
About 1,700 soldiers and 1,900 Marines will move into Kosovo when Jackson orders the KFOR in, Bacon said. The Marines can be in Kosovo within 96 hours of receiving orders, Bacon added.
He said June 9 that 200 American soldiers from V Corps in Germany will follow on the heels of the enabling force. These soldiers will form the core of Task Force Falcon, the name given the U.S. contingent to the NATO security force.
NATO forces will go into the province only after the alliance can verify a Serb pullout. "It is very important, I believe, for the Serbs and everybody else to understand that what we need here is a 'delivered' withdrawal [of Serb forces], not just a 'discussed' withdrawal," Bacon said.
The Army contingent out of Task Force Hawk has started to move from Tirana, Albania, to Skopje, Macedonia. It could be in Skopje within 72 hours.
The Task Force Hawk contingent is composed of units from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 1st Armored Division, based in Germany. Elements drawn from it for Kosovo duty include two light infantry companies, an anti-tank company, eight Apache helicopters, some mechanized vehicles and some 105 mm artillery pieces.
The Marines will land at Thessaloniki, Greece, and also stage out of Skopje. The Marines are now aboard the USS Kearsarge, the USS Gunston Hall and the USS Ponce in the Aegean Sea. The Marine force, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., will consist of a battalion landing team, a 155 mm artillery battalion, a light armored vehicle company, a tracked amphibious assault vehicle company, combat engineers and a reconnaissance element. The Marines will also be able to call on aviation assets including Cobra helicopter gunships and AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft.
The British and French will lead the NATO force into Kosovo. The U.S. joint task force, responsible for the eastern part of the province, will probably set up headquarters in the town of Gnjilane, Bacon said. The Americans, he said, will secure the area, begin patrolling, and make their presence obvious. That should help stabilize the situation and reassure people, he added.
Engineers will begin demining the sector. Bacon said the mine problem will not be as serious as it was in Bosnia.
In other actions, the Army called up 39 National Guardsmen of the 852nd Rear Area Operations Center of Tucson, Ariz., and three Utah Guardsmen to support operations from Macedonia.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen also ordered three engineer teams from the 820th Red Horse Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to Albania. They'll join other allied engineer units and help repair roads and bridges needed to move refugees from border areas to camps further inside Albania.