From the event


3 Aug . 2008

Video interview

with Lieutenant General Xavier Bout de Marnhac,
outgoing Commander of KFOR

Q:  Since 1999 the NATO-led force in Kosovo known as KFOR has been crucial in maintaining security and stability. The NATO mandate in Kosovo is based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244. KFOR is composed of an international force from 32 different NATO nations and partner nations who work together to maintain peace.

Today we're speaking with the outgoing commander of KFOR Lieutenant General de Marnhac. He recently completed his one-year mandate as commander of KFOR on the 31st of August, 2008. Thank you for being here, General.

During your year of service in Kosovo, what have you learned about the people of Kosovo?

XAVIER BOUT DE MARNHAC (Outgoing Commander, KFOR): Well, you know this was not my first tour in Kosovo so I already had some experience with the people of Kosovo. It's a very young people, it's a very motivated people, and what I used to tell them most of the time is that education and preparation for the young people is the best way to invest for the future of the country.

Q: What do you think the people of Kosovo have learned about the Alliance?

DE MARNHAC: Well you know KFOR enjoys a very popular perception from the population of Kosovo, and I will say all the population of Kosovo, whatever the ethnicity, and I think this has been developed through the years by the various KFOR contingence that have been deployed there, and I think this support by the population is still very, very positive aspect for KFOR.

Q: What have been the main challenges and greatest achievements during your service as commander?

DE MARNHAC: This ability to gain support from the population, I'm sure yes, I'm sure yes. This dates to '99 when KFOR move into Kosovo, but also this was developed and maintained through the various very positive action that have been made by KFOR in time of CIMIC operations, support of the population.

Q: How important is CIMIC or civil military cooperation for KFOR?

DE MARNHAC: Well I think you know it's very interesting or important to understand that KFOR is not in a position of a nation building process that in any other operation. But CIMIC for me is a way to sustain and increase the acceptance of KFOR by the population and avoid any perception of KFOR as an occupation force in the country. And this is where CIMIC operations are really important.

Q: What are some of the greatest challenges for KFOR?

DE MARNHAC: Well I guess one of the greatest… challenges for the time being is to adjust to a fast-moving political environment in Kosovo, and this for the months to come is probably what is the greatest challenges.

Q: During your year of service Kosovo declared independence on the 17th of February, 2008. What did you witness during this event and how did KFOR respond?

DE MARNHAC: Well if I want to make some joke I would say first it was very cold and that day… but that's just a joke. No, I think what KFOR tried to do at that time and what I tried to do with KFOR was to pre-emptively to that event that was anticipated, to give the population the feeling that KFOR was ready to react to any situation on the ground, but to be physically visible on the ground so that the population had some confidence in KFOR, willingness to react to any problem.

Q: What are the future challenges that Kosovo is facing?

DE MARNHAC: Well I think definitely the economic improvement of the situation and its impact on employment, or else, and education conditions, this is probably the greatest challenge. Obviously the political issues also, another challenge, but for the man in the street I would think that the economic improvement is probably the best… issue.

Q: As I mentioned KFOR has 32 contributors from both NATO and partner countries. What is it like to work for an operation with so many different nationalities?

DE MARNHAC: Well I think this is exactly what NATO is all about, and I think working in that environment means simply, if I may say so, applying doctrine, applying procedures, mastering the English language, and based on that I mean it's not… I won't say it's easy, but it's not that complex to be able to move those different nationalities together.

Q: And for my last question: what would be your words of wisdom for your successor Lieutenant General Gay?

DE MARNHAC: Well I would say first to be very closely committed to the various actors on the ground. The local leadership, the international community, different organization, and I think every time that KFOR has been very closely engaged with those key players, KFOR has been able to handle the situation.

Q: Thank you very much.