The following editorial appeared in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times:
The internal arguments and foot-dragging that NATO experienced in last year's war against Yugoslavia are now being repeated as it tries to keep the peace in Kosovo. Gen. Wesley K. Clark, the alliance's supreme commander, has urgently appealed for three more battalions -- 1,800 or so troops -- to bolster the U.N.-authorized contingent in the Yugoslav province. On paper the Kosovo Force, or KFOR, counts 30,000 troops from NATO countries, including 5,300 Americans and 7,000 from non-NATO members. Its real strength is less than that since some NATO members aren't meeting their pledged contributions. The shortages were obvious last week when NATO had trouble bolstering its forces in the volatile town of Kosovska Mitrovica.
Failure to maintain adequate troop levels is only one measure of NATO's disarray. Clark complains that some KFOR countries have refused to put their troops in harm's way, as in Kosovska Mitrovica, presumably fearing a political outcry at home should there be casualties. U.S. officials have deplored the failure of the Europeans to make good on their commitment to provide the money and personnel needed to assure normal civic operations. Most glaring is the absence of promised European law enforcement personnel. Only about 25% of a planned 6,000-member international police force has reached Kosovo, leaving it up to infantrymen untrained for the task to try to keep order in the streets.
Also missing are crucially needed international judges and prosecutors. German Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, NATO's commander on the ground, has expressed frustration at seeing killers and other criminals arrested by NATO promptly set free by sympathetic judges.
KFOR's goals in Kosovo remain unclear, beyond the short-term need to keep Serbs and Albanians from killing each other and preventing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from regaining control of the province. What is clear is that the insufficient contributions of some NATO partners are undercutting the mission and hurting the alliance. Kosovo remains a fundamentally European problem, one that should require only the most limited U.S. involvement. Do the Europeans have the political will to deal with it? The question grows increasingly pressing.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.