Winning the peace in Kosovo

On a recent trip to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, we were struck by the vitality of life on the streets. The small and rather pretty city nestled in the Balkan hills seemed to be returning to normal. The Kosovar Albanians' gratitude toward NATO countries for ending the campaign of "ethnic cleansing" by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was unmistakable as well.

All that is excellent news. But below the superficial level of bustle and activity, the security situation remains fragile, the Kosovar Albanian economy remains structurally weak, and social stability remains in jeopardy. There's still much to do within Kosovo, and some of it will take modest amounts of money that countries like the United States are unfortunately proving reluctant to provide. Having spent billions of dollars to win the war and then deploy 50,000 peacekeepers in Kosovo, the outside world now must pay to secure the peace. The price? A fraction of the cost of waging the war.

Not to pay it would suggest that we cared more about defeating Milosevic than about aiding the Kosovar Albanian people. That cannot be the moral calculus driving humanitarian interventions such as this one.

Since the air war against Serbia ended on June 10, the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) has accomplished remarkable things on the ground. It has succeeded in establishing general security in Kosovo - claiming to have reduced per capita violence levels below those of many US cities - scaling back and partially disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) forces that fought Serbs on the ground last spring, and providing humanitarian assistance.

However, numerous difficult tasks critical to establishing peace remain to be done - and most of them are police functions that we shouldn't keep asking KFOR soldiers to perform. They include limiting criminal activity and creating a justice and penal system for criminal suspects. There is a UN mission in Kosovo, independent of KFOR, to take care of such tasks. But there are not yet enough people or funds to perform them.

One example highlights the problem: When Yugoslavia existed, there were 10,000 police operating in Kosovo. The 1999 UN mandate for Kosovo currently authorizes 3,000 police, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has requested an increase to 5,000. But the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) presently has only 1,700 officers. In addition, there are not yet any official funds to pay Kosovar Albanians who are working as doctors, nurses, teachers, and other public employees. The few funds that have been collected as customs at the borders cannot be disbursed because there is no viable UN mechanism to do it.

While the House approved the necessary funding for Kosovo aid Thursday, the Senate has not yet acted and other donor nations have not yet anted up their share.

Failing to pay salaries risks delegitimizing the international community's efforts in Kosovo. It is also simply unfair to the ethnic Albanian residents of the province. And it is also beginning to pose a threat to security as demilitarized KLA soldiers and local administrators see diminished value in cooperating with UNMIK. An upsurge in criminal activity could result.

It is in American interests to begin transferring responsibilities from KFOR troops to UNMIK civilians now that a secure environment has been established. NATO and the UN have developed a sound institutional division of labor that maintains security in Kosovo while reducing the burden on military forces, but UNMIK needs more people and money to put it into effect. The US has 8,000 troops in KFOR; not a huge number, but a significant commitment when the US military is showing strains from commitments in other places such as the Persian Gulf, Korea, and next-door Bosnia.

Operating tempo and personnel tempo, the military's gauge of time deployed, are higher than at any time since World War II. Unless UNMIK is adequately funded, US military forces will continue to be employed in Kosovo in police roles, and too many ethnic Albanians will remain impoverished or tempted by a life of crime.

Solving this problem requires one main thing: a rapid infusion of money. Paying the salaries of UNMIK police, the Kosovo Protection Corps, and local police through next summer would cost less than $100 million. By comparison, the air war NATO waged to end Serbian violence against Kosovo cost $5 billion, and the annual cost of the KFOR military presence at its current size is also about $5 billion.

Thus the current situation is neither good economics nor good military practice. Nor does it help the very people we went to war to save.

*Michael O'Hanlon is a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, in Washington. Kori Schake is a visiting assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland. They were members of a recent fact-finding delegation to the Balkans sponsored by the German Marshall Fund and the New Atlantic Initiative.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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