U.S., Russian Troops to Patrol Kosovo Together
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 16, 1999 U.S. and Russian troops will soon be conducting combined patrols in the American sector of Kosovo to ease the fears of ethnic Albanian and Serb civilians and to enhance communications between the two peacekeeping forces, Army Brig. Gen. John Craddock said July 13.
"I've talked with the Russian commander of forces in Kosovo ... and he seemed agreeable," Craddock told Pentagon reporters in a two-way telephone interview from his Kosovo headquarters. Operational details will be worked out when the main body of a Russian battalion sets up camp. Right now, an advance element of about 80 Russian troops is in place and is expected to swell about 500 in a few days, said Craddock, commander of U.S. forces in Kosovo.
An agreement between Moscow and NATO calls for more than 3,000 Russian troops to be stationed in NATO-designated sectors of Kosovo, but they won't have their own sector.
The Russian presence has sparked some peaceful ethnic Albanian protests, Craddock noted. "Obviously, there's concern there with the perceived relationship between the Russians and the Serbs," the general said. "We're watching that carefully, but I'm not worried about that situation at this time."
Craddock said a U.S. liaison element with the advanced Russian force will remain with the Russian battalion. "We're pretty much using the Bosnia model in terms of how we will communicate, liaison and operate," he said. "There will be representatives from the Russian element at my headquarters, but not on my staff."
The total force in the U.S. sector is about 6,500 troops, which will stabilize at about 7,000. This includes a 750-man Polish airborne infantry battalion and a 550-man Greek mechanized infantry battalion.
Emphasizing the peacekeepers protect everybody, Craddock said Serbs and Albanians receive equal protection. "We're here to provide a safe and secure environment and we don't discriminate. Everybody has a right to live ... without being endangered [by] others," he said.
He said the Serbs are "reticent and concerned" about their safety, and Serb enclaves are more withdrawn than Albanian ones. "When you move through a Serb town or village, they don't come out and welcome you like the Albanians do," Craddock said. "They're not as friendly."
Lawlessness is down, "but still not to the point we want it," Craddock noted. He has set up military police stations throughout the sector to respond to cries for help from Serbs and Albanians alike. He's also clamping down on instances of house burning and random shootings.
"If a Serb family calls and needs help, we're there," he said. "If a Serb wants protection for movement from one place to another, we'll do what we have to escort them."
American peacekeepers "are on the beat, on the street day and night, trying to keep the peace," Craddock said. "We're not holed up in the precinct house or in the base camp. Our guys are out there doing their jobs and doing them well. That's when we draw fire."
A nine-day lull in attacks on U.S. troops ended in early July, Craddock said. He said the gunfire didn't seem to be part of a coordinated effort.
The international community is providing law enforcement help. So far, there's a U.N. police commissioner from Denmark and a Canadian police liaison. The 37 international policemen on duty in Kosovo on July 12 will ultimately grow to a force of up to 4,000. This force will deactivate when local forces are in place, he said.
The general said local police forces, called the Kosovo Police System, is being formed. The U.N. police commissioner will interview candidates for a six-week police academy scheduled to start in August with about 160 students, he noted. Subsequent classes will have as many as 500 students, and all must attend subsequent weekly training classes for a year.
The United States is also providing emergency medical and dental services for Serbs and Albanians in the area. Combat engineers, besides building the U.S. base camps, are supporting civic reconstruction on an emergency basis. And peacekeepers are providing assistance or work crews to help clean up some of the towns, Craddock said.
He said a U.N.-organized magistrate system of nine local judges and magistrates move through brigade areas to review cases, document evidence and confirm or deny the case. "We have 22 people in detention and four being detained in hospitals based upon injuries or wounds," he noted.
Most communities now have their water turned on at least 12 hours per day, the general noted. Brown-outs are normal; no one has full electrical power yet, he said, adding there are spot shortfalls of fuel for buses.
The number of U.S. casualties is well below his expectations. "I was most concerned about land mines and unexploded ordnance," Craddock said. "I think we've done a credible job in mine awareness training and our soldiers are aware of that and are very careful."
He said situational awareness is the key and the soldiers are wary, alert and vigilant.
"We operate in a wingman concept. Never a single vehicle out there. There are at least two vehicles with two people in each vehicle everywhere soldiers go," Craddock said. "When soldiers patrol towns, we operate in squad-sized elements. There is never a soldier by himself, out of sight or out of earshot of another soldier. I think that goes a long ways with force protection."