U.S., NATO Forces Restore Order
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 1999 U.S. soldiers and Marines are among the NATO- led forces helping restore order in Kosovo.
More than 19,000 international troops currently patrol in Kosovo and the force known as KFOR will eventually grow to about 50,000, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said here June 21. NATO has dubbed the peace mission Operation Joint Guardian.
About 4,850 soldiers and Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Army's 82nd Airborne Division's Task Force 505, the 1st Armored Division and 793rd Military Police Battalion have deployed into Kosovo as part of Task Force Falcon. More troops will deploy to the province from the United States and Europe bringing the total U.S. contribution to Operation Joint Guardian to 7,000.
Russia will contribute about 3,600 troops to the security effort, Cohen said. Some will serve in the American sector, where they will work "shoulder-to-shoulder for stability in Kosovo just as they do in Bosnia," he said.
Cohen reported that during a visit to the Kosovo village Urosevac, residents joyously welcomed the peace forces, chanting "NATO, NATO" and "USA, USA." But, he noted, "our troops and the people of Kosovo still face a very daunting task in the months ahead.
"No one can visit Kosovo without being appalled at the destruction," Cohen said. Having flown over a mass grave near Kacanik, Cohen reported, "The scars of ethnic violence won't be easy to obscure."
More than 100,000 ethnic refugees have returned home despite the threat of mines and the reality of destroyed homes and businesses, Cohen said. "This shows the confidence they have in our troops."
U.S. and other NATO forces also face the dangerous remnants of the ethnic conflict -- land mines and booby traps. A booby trap claimed the lives of two British soldiers earlier June 21, Pentagon officials said. The incident was a clear reminder that peacekeeping, like combat is not risk free, said Army Gen. Henry Shelton. The mission will require vigilance, and force protection will remain a high priority, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The enabling force has moved into the American sector and is assessing the situation there, Shelton said. The U.S. sector is in the eastern part of the province. A Greek battalion has joined the American units there.
Air Force C-17s are airlifting task force equipment to Skopje, Macedonia. More than 125 loads have arrived and another 25 to 30 flights are scheduled to go in by the end of the month. More equipment from U.S. European Command is being loaded aboard ships in Bremerhaven, Germany. The USS Bob Hope is expected to sail for the Aegean Sea June 22, Shelton said, followed later by the USS Sodderman.
Pentagon officials area currently identifying about 1,500 troops from the United States to "round out" Task Force Falcon, the chairman said. "We'll have a better handle on the specific units and the movement timelines very soon," he said.
"The United States and KFOR have a substantial military force on the ground already in Kosovo," Shelton said. "NATO is working hard to coordinate the arrival of the remaining elements and U.S. logisticians are doing an outstanding job of making it all work."
Related Site of Interest: DoD News Briefing June 21, 1999