NATO's Kosovo mission failed
Mitrovica, Kosovo - IT HAS BEEN three years
since NATO troops first rolled into Kosovo and the last of the Yugoslav security
forces withdrew from this embattled province. At that juncture, the western
media hailed NATO's intervention as the "liberation of Kosovo" and a
victory for Albanian Kosovars. Many misguided military analysts proclaimed the
In actual fact, unexpected Serbian defiance and the inability of NATO aircraft to locate and destroy the Yugoslav military had forced NATO to concede to then president Slobodan Milosevic's demands and negotiate a diplomatic settlement.
Originally, NATO planners had expected the Serbs to concede after five days of face-saving resistance. No one had planned for a campaign that would last 78 days without creating a crack in the Serbs' will to resist.
Likewise, despite the exaggerated daily claims of destruction by NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, the top brass knew their planes could not find the well-concealed Serbian forces in Kosovo.
Although Shea boasted of NATO pilots "killing" over 150 armoured vehicles, it was later confirmed that only 13 Yugoslav tanks were destroyed during the fighting.
Of these, five were, in fact, Second World War-vintage, U.S.-made M-10 tank destroyers, museum pieces, that were placed in fields by the Serbs as deliberate decoys.
As a result of the air campaign's failure to achieve its aims, NATO was forced to sign a peace deal with Milosevic, a man they had already indicted as a war criminal.
Under the terms of this deal (United Nations Resolution 1244), an international military occupation force in Kosovo would also include non-NATO contingents (notably the Russians, who rushed in to seize the strategic Pristina airport in advance of the NATO forces); the world would still recognize Kosovo as sovereign Yugoslav territory; the Albanian guerrilla force known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was to be quickly disarmed, at which time Serbian security forces would be allowed to re-enter the province to protect historical sites and border posts; and, finally, NATO's demand to hold a referendum o n Kosovo's independence "within three years" was to be postponed "indefinitely."
However, what has become obvious over the past 36 months is that NATO negotiators never had any intention of fully implementing Resolution 1244. Even after the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic's regime, it is apparent that the United Nations Mission in Kosovo is unwilling to co-operate with Yugoslav authorities.
Furthermore, the KLA was never fully disarmed and was reconstituted as the UN-funded Kosovo Protection Corps. Despite repeated protests from Yugoslav negotiators and the destruction of their religious sites, no Serbian police have been allowed to re-enter Kosovo, in spite of the fact that this province technically remains part of the sovereign territory of Yugoslavia.
More importantly, the arguments to justify NATO's military intervention continue to erode. At the time of the first bombing, we were led to believe that timely action would prevent a humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. However, it was two days after the air strikes began that first a trickle, then a flood of refugees began pouring from the region.
With 800,000 Albanians housed in squalid refugee camps, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told us that the bombing had to continue "because Milosevic was committing genocide."
At one stage, in order to encourage support for a military ground campaign, the U.S. State Department claimed that as many as 100,000 Albanians had been slaughtered in Kosovo. However, in the three years since NATO's occupation, United Nations forensic teams have had difficulty in identifying even 2,000 victims that would have been killed during the 78-day crisis. (This number includes over 400 Serbs and 300 other non-Albanians, and does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.)
Given the final death tally, even the newly constituted Albanian Kosovo Supreme Court ruled last month that no genocide had taken place in Kosovo, only the displacement of people. Nevertheless, despite the presence of 40,000 NATO soldiers and 10,000 international police who patrol the province, over the past 36 months there have been 1,000 murders and 2,000 people were reported missing.
For the 239,000 Serbs who fled Kosovo in 1999, during the period of Albanian "revenge" attacks, displacement into refugee camps remains a reality. For the additional 100,000 Serbs and non-Albanians who stayed in their homes in Kosovo, they continue to live in tiny enclaves under 24-hour NATO protection. With an unresolved refugee crisis and continued inter-ethnic violence, it is difficult to understand how NATO officials, who were responsible for the intervention, can proclaim Kosovo to be either justifiable or a success.