Commander Says Kosovo Progress Slow, but Encouraging
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 1999 Progress restoring order and infrastructure in Kosovo may be "slow and inconsistent, but the trend is encouraging," according to the American sector commander.
"We'll take two steps forward one week, and the next week we'll step back," said Army Brig. Gen. John Craddock. "But we are at least getting [the Serbs and Albanians] to talk to us, and on occasion, [getting] them to talk to each other. That's encouraging."
Via telephone from Kosovo, Craddock updated reporters on the situation during an Aug. 11 press conference. The Task Force Falcon commander said U.S. military officials are helping Serbs and Albanians to set up civil administrations, restore public works and reopen schools.
About 6,000 U.S. soldiers along with 2,000 Greeks, Poles, and Russians are deployed in the sector. In recent weeks, the troops have provided security while Serb and Albanian farmers harvested their crops. They've also provided fuel - - a commodity hard to come by in the area right now -- for tractors and combines, Craddock said.
Crime is rampant in the sector and U.S. military police are being stretched enforcing law and order, Craddock said. The commander said he looks forward to the arrival of trained international police. About 200 have arrived in Kosovo, but so far, only 16 are working in the American sector.
"My soldiers are not policemen," Craddock said. "I've got military police and they are stretched because we're running military police stations in the larger towns in our area. We're doing investigations when crimes are reported. Those [military] police are out patrolling both alone and now with [the 16] U.N. international police [here].
"I will welcome, heartily endorse and pull in as many U.N. international police as we can get," Craddock said. "We will take all we can get as soon as we can get them. Law and order is exactly what we're after. Most of them will have executive powers which means they'll carry weapons, and they can make arrests."
Craddock said Russian troops in the American sector are responding well to a tough situation. "There appears to be a significant disinformation campaign against the Russian soldiers," Craddock said.
"In my judgment," he continued, "[they faced] a lot of bias and preconceived notions when they got there. There is great concern from the Albanian population, a preconceived notion that the Russians will favor the Serbs. We have not seen that."
U.S. troops train and patrol with Russian counterparts in what Craddock described as "a very disciplined unit." In recent incidents, the Russians showed great restraint after being attacked by small arms fire, hand grenades and what appeared to be homemade bombs, he said. "They showed good control. The soldiers were defensive. They postured themselves correctly. Their response was measured and correct. They reported what was going on very accurately and very timely."
Overall, Craddock said, Russian soldiers in the U.S. sector have performed admirably, fairly and impartially, Craddock said. They understand the mission. "One yardstick I have that says that's true, is the fact that right now at our police station in Kamenica, we are receiving as many complaints about the Russians from the Serbs as we are from the Albanians. That tells me they are pretty even-handed in their approach."
The complaints are the same as those made against all NATO- led troops throughout the area, Craddock said. "It's 'I'm having a problem and you're doing nothing about it. Someone's been kidnapped and I want to know where they are. You stopped my car, and you didn't stop somebody else's car. You are showing favoritism one way or the other.'"
The press briefing was Craddock's last from Kosovo. He turned command of Task Force Falcon over to Army Brig. Gen. Craig Peterson. Craddock will become commander of the 7th Army Training Center at Grafenwoehr, Germany. Peterson was 1st Armored Division chief of staff at Bad Kreuznach, Germany.