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NATO and KLA
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avgust 20, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NATO and the KLA

The tensions within NATO are most clearly evident in Kosovo. The notion that military occupation would bring peace to the region has proved to be a short-sighted illusion. The victory is, in fact, a Pyrrhic victory. Following the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops, Kosovo is an explosive knot of contradictions.

The systematic expulsion of the Serbs and gypsies—of 200,000 non-Albanian inhabitants prior to the war, no more than 30,000 remain in Kosovo—is the least of the problems for NATO. Their flight was predictable. It would be naive to think that those responsible in NATO would have acted any differently.

Nevertheless, the mass expulsion contradicts the official propaganda, which claimed the war was about human rights and the prevention of ethnic cleansing. That is why the latest expulsions have been condemned. But in practice NATO has done little to prevent the expulsions from taking place. Some commentaries even indicate relief on the part of the authorities that at least this problem has been resolved. A much bigger problem than the expulsion of non-Albanian elements in the population is the issue of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA, with which NATO has repeatedly come into conflict in recent weeks.

Since the withdrawal of the Serbian administration and military forces, the KLA has systematically moved to fill the vacuum left behind. It occupies administrative posts, has assumed policing and other functions, and has taken over factories, real estate and other property formerly in the possession of the Serbian state.

It has only partially accepted the authority of the administration established by NATO and has frequently organised demonstrations against the KFOR troops, as in Kosovoska Mitrovica, where French troops prevented Albanian demonstrators from storming a Serbian-occupied neighbourhood, and again in German-controlled Orahovac, where demonstrators attempted to prevent the stationing of Russian KFOR troops.

NATO finds itself in a dilemma. If it gives way to the KLA and allows the organisation free rein in Kosovo it risks a further expansion of the Balkan crisis. The aim of the KLA is an independent Kosovo and a Greater Albania, including parts of Macedonia, Greece and Albania. The realisation of this aim will inevitably lead to bloody conflicts in these as well as neighbouring countries. If, on the other hand, NATO proceeds against the KLA, the result will be bloody confrontations within Kosovo itself. NATO could land itself in a debacle similar to Somalia, where international troops withdrew in the heat of a bitter civil war or WORSE, to call Serbian troops to help.

A number of additional factors complicate the situation. First, the KLA is everything but a unified movement and is therefore difficult to control. Fifteen different parties are represented in the "Provisional Government" of KLA leader Hashim Thaci. Agreements made by the leadership are frequently ignored at a local level. Second, there is a close connection between the KLA and the Albanian mafia, which is notorious for its lack of scruples and predilection for violence. Third, the KLA works closely with the government of Pandeli Majko in neighbouring Albania, while the Kosovo opposition—the KDM (Kosovo Democratic Movement) of Ibrahim Rugova—collaborates with the Albanian opposition of Sali Berisha. Units of the KDM are alleged to have participated in an attempted putsch led by Berisha in the Albanian capital of Tirana last September. A conflict in Kosovo could easily spill over into Albania, and vice versa.

In light of the tense situation, the mutual recriminations within NATO have intensified. The European powers, which set the tone for the UN-imposed civilian authority, are not prepared to share power with the KLA. The position of the US, on the other hand, is at best ambiguous.

The KLA bases itself openly on support from the US, which was responsible for the organisation's rise to political prominence. Pro-American slogans were raised at the demonstrations against French and Russian KFOR units. For its part, America has done little to dispel the impression that it backs the KLA.

At the Rambouillet talks which preceded the war the US State Department selected the KLA to be its favoured negotiating partner, because it was thereby able to pose an ultimatum to Belgrade to which the latter could not possibly submit.

Previously the Kosovo Liberation Army had conducted its affairs in the shadows. In Germany a ban was in the course of being implemented against the core of the party, the Enver Hoxha-oriented KPM (Kosovo Peoples Movement).

Since Rambouillet, KLA leader Thaci has maintained close connections with James Rubin, the press attaché of the US State Department, with whom he struck up a friendship during the course of the discussions. In his conflicts with the UN administration, Thaci has regularly appealed to Rubin, and the latter is said to have given Thaci a guarantee that the KLA would assume a leading role in the future policing of Kosovo.