17 December 2006

US troops in Kosovo ready to respond to violence

SERBIANNA (USA), November 16, 2006
American troops deployed in Kosovo are ready to respond to violence that is nearly certain to erupt once the final status of this Serbian province is determined by the international Contact Group, assesses US commander of the Kosovo Force's Multinational Task Force, Army Brig. Gen. Darren Owens. Owens told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that, regardless of the outcome, one side will be unhappy and violence is likely.

"We're approaching an important moment politically that will affect the future of Kosovo," said Gen. James Jones, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's supreme allied commander. "We'll have to see what that is and what the decision is, and we'll also wait and see how the Kosovars accept the will of the international community."

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians are referred to as Kosovars.

"What we're facing here are 180-degree opposing viewpoints," Army Lt. Col. Steve Johnston from the task force's intelligence section. "There's calm, but tensions are rising about issues surrounding the final status."

The intelligence unit also assesses that the delay in reaching an agreement could spark new violence. Owens reminded Pace of anti-Serb riots that erupted when talks were delayed in 2004.

Kosovo Force's Multinational Task Force is made up of 2,600 US, Greek, Polish, Ukrainian, Romanian, Armenian and Lithuanian troops, is part of the 16,000-member Kosovo Force.

Kosovo Force's Multinational Task Force is also worried about spread of Islamic terrorism.

"This is a place where the United States has an opportunity to stop the spread of terrorism," Owens said. "People here have been killing each other for years, and our presence here demonstrates that the world won't stand by and let that happen, while showing the importance of our basic values of treating people with dignity and respect."

Since 1999 when the UN introduced self-rule to Kosovo Albanians, over 200,000 Serbs have been ethnically cleansed from the province while over 150 churches have been destroyed in a Muslim drive to religiously cleanse the province of its vast Christian heritage.