Robust, Ready Peacekeeping Force Needed Soon
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 26, 1999 An international peacekeeping force with NATO at its core must soon be pre-staged, ready to rapidly enter Kosovo after a peace agreement is achieved, according to U.S. and NATO defense officials.
Next week, the North Atlantic Council will consider sending an enhanced peacekeeping force of between 45,000 to 50,000 troops into the region, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said here. "We want the force to deploy as soon as possible, and many of our allies share that view," the Pentagon spokesman said May 25.
"This is not a shadow invasion force," Bacon stressed to Pentagon reporters. "This force will be constituted to be a peacekeeping force to be in place so it can enter Kosovo quickly after a peace agreement and help the refugees get back to their homes as soon as possible."
NATO's goal is to create peace and stability in Kosovo. The 19-nation alliance is determined to keep bombing until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic agrees to end the violence and repression in Kosovo; withdraw his military, police and paramilitary forces; allow stationing of an international military peacekeeping force; allow the safe return of all refugees; and work toward a political framework agreement for Kosovo.
"NATO is planning for success," Bacon emphasized. The air campaign is inflicting greater and greater damage every day on Milosevic's ground forces in Kosovo and on his ability to sustain his forces, he said. "Even in bad weather, we continue to strike the targets aggressively, and when we have periods of good weather, as we did last Friday and Saturday, we can strike significant numbers of targets in a 24-hour period."
Last fall, as the alliance prepared for war, military authorities also planned to ultimately deploy a peace implementation force. Initially the force known as KFOR was to be made up of about 28,000 troops. NATO military planners now say a much larger force is needed due to the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and the greater need to rebuild infrastructure. This force will be "structured to provide more nonmilitary and public security functions than was envisioned under the prior force" to ensure there is a secure and stable environment when the refugees return, Bacon said.
The United States will also expand its contribution to the peace effort, Bacon noted. President Clinton planned to contribute about 4,000 troops to KFOR, he said. Although the president has not yet made a decision regarding this larger force, the U.S. contribution will most likely increase proportionately to about 7,000 troops.
NATO's Military Committee has cleared an operational plan for the peacekeeping mission being dubbed Operation Joint Guard, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said May 23 in Brussels, Belgium. The plan is now before the 19 NATO ambassadors and the secretary general. Once approved, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe will then go through a force generation process to ensure NATO member nations are prepared to deploy the number and type of units needed.
Shea said the force must be robust enough to function in what will be a permissive but difficult environment. 'Permissive' does not mean 'easy,'" he stressed. "We are not going to fight our way in," but Kosovo "will require a substantial, well-equipped, well-trained force with robust rules of engagement and a very solid command structure."
The peacekeepers' first objective will be to ensure Serb forces have left Kosovo and that they are complying with the terms of the agreement, Shea said. Their second objective will be to ensure that the refugees can return in an orderly fashion. The peacekeepers will provide security and infrastructure support for humanitarian aide workers and war crimes investigators.
These peacekeeping forces "will face a vacuum of law and order" and "a very dire humanitarian situation," Shea pointed out. They will enter a "wasteland" where communication and food distribution lines have all been substantially disrupted. "You are going to need a heavy force to deter any further breakdown in law and order and to constructively help the other organizations get started," he said.
About 10,000 allied troops are in Albania, including about 5,000 U.S. troops serving with Task Force Hawk and others supporting humanitarian efforts as part of Task Force Shining Hope. About 14,000 NATO forces are already in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, deployed as part of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to serve as the advance element of KFOR.
The NATO force in Macedonia will remain to serve as the peace force headquarters, Bacon said. "It's possible that not all the troops will be stationed in Macedonia or enter through Macedonia," Bacon said. If troops enter by sea, he said, they would go through Thessaloniki, Greece. If they come in by air, they would come through Skopje, Macedonia. Others might come in through Albania or Hungary. "These are the types of details that will be worked out in due time," he said.