Author Topic: Kosovo Situation ‘Stable, But Fragile,’  (Read 1010 times)

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Kosovo Situation ‘Stable, But Fragile,’
« on: October 29, 2007, 18:31:19 »
Kosovo Situation ‘Stable, But Fragile,’ Commander Says
By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service
 Article Link
 
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2007 – The situation in Kosovo is “stable, but potentially fragile,” the commander of U.S. forces there said. 

Army Brig. Gen. Douglas B. Earhart, commander of the American contingent in Kosovo, displays a painting done by the two schoolchildren accompanying him. Earhart's unit will complete its tour of duty in Kosovo Nov. 2. Courtesy photo   
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
 
Army Brig. Gen. Douglas B. Earhart, commander of the American contingent in the NATO-led Kosovo Force, said he is proud of the job that his 1,500-member force has done and believes the province is ready for several key events.

Earhart commands a multinational force based around the National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division. The 39th Infantry Division will take over the command Nov. 2.

The first event Earhart referenced is Kosovo-wide elections scheduled for Nov. 17, followed by the end of the 120-day supplemental negotiation process that Serbia, Kosovo and a team of international negotiators have been holding on the status of the province.

“Things are calm, but underneath the surface people are anxious, and they are not sure of what the outcome is going to be,” the general told American Forces Press Service. “People are tired of waiting; they just want this thing resolved. It doesn’t matter if you are Kosovar Albanian or Kosovar Serbian; you just want it over so you can get on with normal life.”

The NATO-led Kosovo Force is keeping the province stable, but there are challenges, he said. Reports of paramilitary groups operating on both sides of the provincial border add to the fragility of the situation. “When the media report on those groups, we see the population getting anxious about that,” Earhart said.

The general discounts these organizations. “They operate on the fringe and have no legitimacy,” he said, adding that these groups are more like gangs than any type of organized political movement.

“They are rogue criminals living in the hills with nothing better to do than to stir up trouble,” he said. “They stir up trouble because it serves their purposes to have a lawless area.”

The criminal elements want uncertainty; they want disruption, because this allows them to operate. The government needs to get into these areas and establish control, Earhart said. “Where you don’t have a lot of tax collection, you don’t have a lot of police activity,” he said.

The bottom line is that there are pockets of these criminals in the province, but nothing widespread, he added.

Kosovo police are getting better, and they are extending the government’s control. NATO forces are working with them to improve their capabilities, the general said.
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