Some U.S. troops to leave Kosovo
The U.S. is pulling 570 of its troops out of Kosovo in the next two months as part of a NATO restructuring, the Army announced Monday.
The move coincides with similar reductions by other countries that are part of the Kosovo force.
By the end of May, about 830 U.S. troops will be left in the country, part of Multi-National Brigade-East, officials said.
The reduction represents a battalion-size element, but troops from several smaller units will be sent home early, according to Capt. Dan Murphy, public affairs officer for MNBE.
About half of the current rotation is composed of troops from the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade from North Dakota, though Murphy said troops from 40 states are currently serving in Kosovo.
The National Guard and Army Reserve have been spearheading U.S. efforts in Kosovo for several years now. Allied troops initially entered Kosovo in June 1999 following a 78-day NATO bombing campaign designed to drive Serbian forces out and stop fighting between Serbs and ethnic Albanians. U.S. troop numbers once topped 7,000 in the country, but have decreased several times over the years.
Murphy said that officials feel that the number of troops left will be adequate to carry out the missions.
“Most certainly,” he said. “The local institutions, such as the Kosovo police, are really doing a fine job. I’d say the stability of Kosovo is very favorable right now.”
By the time the next rotation of troops — led by elements of the Army National Guard from Puerto Rico — takes over in July, the U.S. force will only be about 720, according to a news release issued Monday. That will be about half the total KFOR troops in the sector. Greece, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Turkey also have troops in the U.S.-led sector.
NATO also announced Sunday it is suspending the training of Kosovo’s security troops after a military-style parade broke the force’s agreement to focus only on civil emergencies.
The Associated Press reported that the alliance called off its support for the 2,500-strong Kosovo Security Force following the appearance of an armed honor guard at a parade on Friday marking the 12th anniversary of the killing of the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian rebel force that fought Serbia in 1998-99.
The parade appearance was “inconsistent with (its) non-military status,” NATO said in a statement. Kosovo’s force was set up last year with a role limited to civil emergencies as part of a plan that allowed Kosovo to secede from Serbia. It replaced a similar force made up mostly of former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
The alliance, which has pledged to provide training and supply weapons for the force, said the suspension would continue until it received an explanation of the incident, remedial action and guarantees that such incidents would be avoided in the future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.