NATO considers more peacekeeping troops for decades-old Kosovo mission
Stars and Stripes November 21, 2023
NATO is considering a permanent increase to its peacekeeping force in Kosovo, where tensions have been high in recent months, the alliance’s top official said Tuesday during a visit to Serbia.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also warned Serbia to avoid another military buildup near its administrative border with Kosovo. Similar actions have contributed to elevated hostilities over the years.
The alliance’s multinational Kosovo Force mission began in 1999 and includes about 4,500 troops, including about 600 Americans, mostly from the National Guard. The mission typically rotates among Guard units every nine to 12 months.
Stoltenberg’s comments came during a swing through the Balkans, where a day earlier he was in Kosovo to meet with officials and alliance military members.
“We are now reviewing whether we should have a more permanent increase to ensure that this doesn’t spiral out of control and create a new violent conflict in Kosovo or the wider region,” Stoltenberg said Monday.
He reiterated that point again Tuesday, speaking alongside Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. While no final decisions have been made, NATO is looking at a “more enduring increased presence” for its mission in Kosovo, known as KFOR, Stoltenberg said.
Already, NATO has boosted the number of peacekeepers to its highest level in at least a decade in Kosovo, with about 1,000 additional troops now part of the KFOR mission. Those increases came after a Sept. 24 clash between Kosovo police and armed Serbs at a monastery in northern Kosovo.
While Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia in 2008, tens of thousands of Serbs live in north Kosovo and align with Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo’s declaration. That has led to repeated clashes over the years with Kosovo authorities and sometimes NATO peacekeepers.