Mullen Wishes Kosovo Well, Says NATO Mission Won’t Change
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Feb. 20, 2008 NATO will continue its mission in the newly independent republic of Kosovo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on Feb. 17. The United States has a National Guard brigade deployed in the country now, and its mission will not change, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during a news conference here.
NATO put together its Kosovo Force at the end of a 78-day bombing campaign in 1999 to stop Serbs from driving ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo. NATO forces entered the Serbian province and ended the humanitarian catastrophe that was occurring. NATO took the mission under authorization from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244.
Since then, NATO and partner nations have maintained 15,000 to 16,000 troops there to maintain security and stability for all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin, NATO officials said.
The United States has had 1,500 to 1,600 troops in Kosovo for some time. “It is a peacekeeping and peace stabilization mission in Kosovo, and they will continue to operate under UNSCR 1244 until the United Nations Security Council rescinds it,” Mullen said.
“I am delighted that independence has been declared, and I certainly wish the people of Kosovo nothing but the best for the future,” said the admiral said. “The security mission that will ensue as a result of this independence will transition to what it is now, to a (European Union) capability. We also want this transition to take place in a peaceful way so the people of Kosovo are the long-term winners here.”
A NATO news release reiterated NATO’s responsibility and capability to ensure that a safe and secure environment in Kosovo remains unchanged.
“KFOR will continue to execute this mandate in an impartial manner in accordance with its Operational Plan,” the release said. “NATO will respond resolutely to any attempts to disrupt the safety and security of the population of Kosovo.”