Peacekeeping in Kosovo: US wants to shift burden

Pentagon calls on Europe to play greater role in policing its own backyard.

With no end in sight to the violence in Kosovo, the Pentagon has begun efforts to relieve the pressure on US peacekeepers in the breakaway province.

Defense Secretary William Cohen on Tuesday criticized Europe for not contributing enough money and civilian police to the region, where eight Kosovars were killed and more than 20 injured in rioting last week.

The comments by Mr. Cohen, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, are the clearest expression to date of the difficulties the Pentagon will face extracting some 6,500 American soldiers from Kosovo and neighboring Macedonia.

"This is a responsibility of the international community," Cohen said about maintaining law and order in Kosovo. "The Europeans must also bear a fair share of that responsibility and they have yet to do so."

Pentagon officials hope that an effective civilian police force will ease the workload of the US soldiers and allow their numbers to be pared down over time. But so far, fewer than 2,000 police are in place, out of a desired 5,000. About 500 of them are Americans.

"The goal is to move the military folks out of those positions and turn the job over to the folks who are more suited for that task," says Lt. Col. Vic Warzinski, a Pentagon spokesman.

Defense planners are particularly concerned with troop numbers because they are having trouble recruiting and they are deploying overseas at a high rate. They have even begun sending reserves for postings in Bosnia and air missions over Iraq.

In the long term, the Pentagon wants Europe to carry the weight of operations in its own backyard. Kosovo peacekeeping could be seen as a first test.

Already, Europe has held both commands to date of the United Nations Kosovo mission - first British Gen. Mike Jackson and, as of October, German Gen. Klaus Reinhardt. Europe is also forming a new military component, the Eurocorps, which is supposed to take over the NATO headquarters command in Kosovo in April.

"The force will become more European and less American, but we want a continued American presence," says a European diplomat in Washington.

Continued violence

The situation in Kosovo has gained renewed attention because of the continued high levels of violence, seen last week in the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica.

Whereas the international community was initially criticized for going to the rescue of the ethnic Albanians too slowly, it now has come under fire for not protecting the Serbs who remained in Kosovo after the Yugoslav army pulled out this summer.

Furthermore, the US soldiers stationed in Kosovo have not been trained for peacekeeping. And some locals have accused them of rough behavior.

"American soldiers in Bosnia and Kosovo are just that - they're soldiers," explained Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the joint chiefs, in testimony before the Senate committee.

"They're not policemen. They lack the training and the expertise to effectively police the large civil societies in both Bosnia and Kosovo," he said.

Defense analysts say police and soldiers are trained in almost opposite ways. Police are encouraged to reach out into the community to diffuse tension. Soldiers, on the other hand, are trained to avoid contact and focus on troop protection.

Escalating cost

Another emerging problem with the US involvement in Kosovo is the cost. President Clinton requested $2.1 billion for troops in Kosovo and Bosnia for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. But congressional leaders have warned that he may not get it - especially if the European community does not chip in more.

The 2001 budget features $14.4 billion more for defense than the current year's budget. Inflation not included, it is only the second increase in defense spending since the end of the cold war.

According to George Friedman, an analyst for Stratfor, a Texas-based business intelligence service, the recent US reprimand of the Europeans is a signal that the Pentagon is beginning its exit strategy.

Mr. Friedman finds it ironic that some of the European countries resisted the US-led air strikes against Yugoslavia, but now will have to take the lead in the second phase of the mission.

"The US, having gotten everybody into this [intervention], would like to shift the burden to the Europeans," he says.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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