North Atlantic Council Cuts Balkan Troop Numbers (Corrected Copy)
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 14, 2002 (Editor's note: Task Force Falcon information is corrected.)
NATO will reduce the number of troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, alliance officials said May 9.
The North Atlantic Council approved changes that will reduce troop levels in Bosnia from 19,000 to 12,000 and in Kosovo from 38,000 to 33,200. The reduction will be completed by the middle of 2003, NATO officials said.
Currently, just over 2,000 U.S. personnel serve in Bosnia. Task Force Eagle, the U.S. entity in the country, is under the command of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) based in Hawaii.
The 1st Infantry Division, headquartered in Wuerzburg, Germany, commands the U.S. effort in Kosovo, called Task Force Falcon. There are currently about 6,300 U.S. personnel there. The NATO-led effort in Kosovo has troops from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Canada and Ukraine.
The drawdown will affect U.S. forces in both countries, said defense officials. The new levels will not be known until the countries contributing troops to peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo sit down and hash out who will provide what. "It's a force-balancing discussion," said Army Lt. Col. Ed Loomis, a U.S. European Command spokesman. "The providing countries will look at the capabilities needed and build the force around that."
NATO officials cited improvements in the "security climate" in the Balkans for the force reduction. U.S. officials said civilian agencies – both foreign and homegrown – are picking up more of the missions in the countries. NATO officials said the reduction should still allow the Stabilization Force in Bosnia and the Kosovo Force to do their missions. NATO forces in the Balkans will be lighter, more mobile and more flexible, officials said.
They will be able to address current security concerns and assist nongovernmental agencies dealing with refugees, border security and ethnic rivalries.