NATO Planners Double Kosovo Peace Force Size to 50,000
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 20, 1999 NATO military authorities now say a larger Kosovo peace implementation force will be needed once a peace agreement is reached.
Initially, the force known as "KFOR" was to include about 28,000 NATO troops, and President Clinton said the United States would contribute about 4,000 troops. NATO is now considering a force of 45,000 to 50,000, and the number of U.S. troops would most likely increase as well, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said here May 19.
Noting that the president has not yet decided on the size of the U.S. contingent, Bacon said, "I think you could anticipate a proportional increase, which would be in the range of 7,000 or so."
KFOR is still in the planning stages, he stressed. NATO's North Atlantic Council has not approved a final plan. But, considering the amount of devastation that's taken place in Kosovo, a larger force will most likely be necessary.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said NATO planners determining the size of the force must take into account the lack of infrastructure, the number of mines to be removed, the refugee crisis and the need for force protection. No final number has yet been set, but he said there is a sense of urgency within the alliance to finalize KFOR plans.
Once Milosevic agrees to meet NATO demands, he said, "We have to be ready with a peace implementation force to enter Kosovo rapidly and secure the situation in order to stave off any difficult situation that could emerge from a vacuum."
NATO has already put an enabling force of about 13,000 troops into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Shea noted. This rapid reaction force would be the leading edge of the peace implementation force. Another 2,000 NATO troops are in Albania supporting humanitarian efforts there.
The United States can quickly move forces into Kosovo once an agreement is reached, Bacon said. About 6,000 U.S. service members are already in Albania, including Task Force Hawk's Army AH-64 Apache helicopter air and ground crews, Air Force air traffic controllers in Tirana, and Air Force engineer teams building refugee camps.
About 31,600 U.S. military personnel and 650 U.S. aircraft currently support NATO's Operation Allied Force, and more continue to deploy in support of the air campaign. Among the latest to deploy are about 800 Marines and sailors and 24 F/A- 18D Hornets slated to be in Taszar, Hungary, by late May. A total of 54 U.S. F-15 and F-16 fighters are soon to be deployed to Turkey, Bacon said.