U.S. troops in Kosovo have conducted their last scheduled patrol along the border with the Republic of Macedonia.

American soldiers have regularly conducted such patrols —often with the Kosovo Border and Boundary Police — since entering Kosovo in 1999. But a joint patrol Monday with the KBBP was the last one planned for U.S. troops, according to Multi-National Battle Group-East. From now on, members of the KBBP will conduct the patrols themselves or in coordination with their counterparts across the border.

“We are definitely at the point where we can step back,” said Capt. Dan Murphy, spokesman for the battle group at Camp Bondsteel.

Originally designed as a means to help secure the sometimes-contentious border, the patrols in recent years have concentrated more on smuggling and human trafficking. Murphy said Kosovo Force could always decide to restart the patrols if there’s a reason to do so, but he said officials are confident that the local police force is capable of handling the role.

“It was a big step,” he said. “We’re looking forward to more opportunities where we can hand over more missions to the local institutions in Kosovo.”

The U.S. announced earlier this year that it would substantially cut its forces in Kosovo, echoing similar plans by other KFOR participants. The cuts will reduce the U.S. presence to a battalion-size element based at Bondsteel, a sprawling base in the southeast part of the country.

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