Staying the course
It is not always making headlines, but NATO’s continued role in Kosovo is steadily following its course, out of the lime-light and despite underlying tensions.
For the last 12 years, the mission of the NATO-led Kosovo Force – KFOR – has been to maintain a safe and secure environment for all the people in Kosovo. NATO is also training the Kosovo Security Force to deal with civil emergencies, explosive ordnance disposal or search and rescue operations and it is protecting sites with a particular religious and cultural value. More importantly, KFOR is maintaining a military presence to create a climate of confidence and quell tensions when they arise. Basically, the Alliance’s role is helping to create the conditions for security and stability throughout Kosovo. It has also helped to build the conditions necessary for other international organisations, such as the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), to do their job.
However, this process is long and gradual. Over 12 years after the creation of KFOR in June 1999 under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, tensions remain and KFOR’s presence is still required. For instance, only recently, the situation deteriorated in northern Kosovo leaving a KFOR soldier and several locals wounded.
A democratic, multi-ethnic and stable Kosovo has an important impact on the security of the wider Western Balkans region. NATO leaders are committed to moving the stabilisation process forward and to supporting a political solution for northern Kosovo, through a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, under EU auspices. In the meantime, KFOR is continuing to act carefully, firmly and impartially to guarantee the population a stable environment, freedom of movement and security.
At its height, KFOR reached 50,000 troops. Today, as an indicator of the improved security situation in Kosovo KFOR’s commander, Major General Erhard Drews, has a tenth of that number.