With Few Options, NATO Turns Up Heat on KLA to Lukewarm

                      On August 8, French troops clashed with ethnic Albanians on the
                      bridge in Mitrovica, that divides the ethnically Albanian and
                      Serbian parts of the city. In the third day of clashes in Mitrovica,
                      about 150 Albanian protesters, yelling anti-French slogans, were
                      pushed back by French soldiers armed with rifles. The past
                      weekend saw numerous incidents of anti-Serb violence
                      conducted by ethnic Albanians, some of whom were directly
                      involved in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). In addition,
                      according to KFOR spokesman Major Roland Lavoile, KFOR
                      continued to discover illegal arms caches along with uniforms and
                      supplies linking the finds to the KLA. Most recently, on August 8,
                      British troops found a number of weapons in a house in Lipljan
                      searched in connection with a wave of grenade attacks. Along
                      with weapons, "KLA Interior Ministry Police" identification cards
                      and uniforms were found in the house. The evidence linking the
                      KLA to violent activities and the series of clashes between the
                      KLA and KFOR in Mitrovica illustrate both the continued threat
                      posed by the KLA and, significantly, the rising tensions between
                      the KLA and NATO peacekeepers.

                      The August 9 Scotsman newspaper quoted the NATO KFOR
                      commander Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson as saying
                      KLA attacks on KFOR troops had raised questions about KLA
                      leadership’s ability to control KLA hardliners. "I can't say I am fully
                      confident that they are in full control," said Jackson. After ethnic
                      Albanians clashed with French peacekeeping troops for the third
                      day in Kosovska Mitrovica, Jackson called on KLA leaders to
                      explain to their people that currently "free Kosovo" represents "a
                      great deal of what they fought for," although not quite
                      independence. Despite his concerns about "hardliners" in the
                      ranks of the KLA, Jackson dismissed the possibility that the KLA
                      as a whole is close to clashing with the KFOR troops. "We may
                      get some difficulty with fringe hot-heads and we will deal with it,"
                      Jackson said. He concluded that challenging KFOR "would be the
                      most foolish thing to do and I am sure they are not going to be that

                      The continued KLA-perpetrated and facilitated violence in
                      Kosovo has put NATO in an impossible situation. From the
                      beginning of its involvement in the Kosovo crisis, NATO’s actions
                      have, directly and indirectly, supported the KLA and its leader
                      Hashim Thaci. NATO thought it could use Thaci and the KLA as a
                      lever in Kosovo, and just as easily put them away after driving out
                      the Yugoslav Army. However, having enticed NATO into fighting
                      their war for them, Thaci and the KLA have no intention of putting
                      down their weapons, and are instead intensifying their fight for
                      Kosovo’s independence. Now that it has become clear who was
                      using whom, NATO is left with few if any options to deal with the

                      First, NATO is stuck spinning doubletalk, attempting to distinguish
                      Hashim Thaci and the KLA leadership from KLA "hardliners."
                      There are none harder in the KLA than Thaci, yet after giving him
                      legitimacy during Operation Allied Force, NATO finds it politically
                      impossible to call him a thug. For the same reason, NATO cannot
                      arrest Thaci. Not only would this be politically difficult, such move
                      would be tantamount to a declaration of war against the KLA.
                      NATO can not challenge the KLA head to head without accepting
                      some brutal casualties. The KLA operated quite successfully
                      against a similarly sized force of Serbs who knew the territory and
                      were anything but subtle in their efforts to eradicate a guerrilla
                      army. To attempt a serious crackdown against the KLA with
                      winter approaching, in unfamiliar terrain, surrounded by civilian
                      supporters of the rebels and constrained by NATO’s political and
                      military baggage would be nothing short of disaster for NATO

                      So if NATO can not seriously take on the KLA for political and
                      military reasons, why not just ignore them and let them finish
                      expelling the Serbs from Kosovo? After all, just a few tens of
                      thousands more Serbs to go and NATO can begin to "move
                      beyond" that political shame. Serbs and Russians charge NATO
                      with doing just that. However, Serb and Russian forces have also
                      warned NATO that if it does not rein in the KLA, they will be forced
                      to do so themselves.

                      On July 31, Russian forces in Kosovo briefly detained KLA
                      military leader General Agim Ceku after he was unable to
                      produce documentation that allows some KLA members to
                      continue wearing uniforms and carrying sidearms. Following
                      Ceku’s detention, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a
                      statement on August 1 claiming that the KLA was using force
                      against Serbs in Kosovo and made public threats to international
                      peacekeepers. The statement further said, "immediate efficient
                      measures are needed to ensure KLA’s unconditional fulfillment of
                      all the terms of the Kosovo peacekeeping process and to prevent
                      development endangering the whole peacemaking operations in
                      Kosovo." Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov sent
                      corresponding messages to the commanders of peacekeeping
                      forces in Kosovo, to foreign ministers of the Western countries
                      and to the United Nations. Russia’s detention of Ceku was meant
                      to send a message to NATO that it is ready to step in and provide
                      protection to Kosovo Serbs.

                      Belgrade is also more than ready to return to Kosovo and fight the
                      KLA. In an unmistakable reference to the KLA made on August 8,
                      Third Yugoslav Army commander Colonel-General Nebojsa
                      Pavkovic said, "KFOR troops, and its civilian component
                      especially, are trying to suspend the laws of Serbia and the
                      Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by forging alliances with illegal
                      authorities." The Beta news agency cited Pavkovic as insisting
                      that, according to the Kumanovo agreement between NATO and
                      the Yugoslav Army, Yugoslav army troops are supposed to return
                      to Kosovo at some point in the future. Pavkovic has claimed
                      multiple times that the Yugoslav Army will return if NATO does not
                      bring unbiased order to the province, and on August 8 he again
                      noted to Beta that the UN forces in Kosovo "are coping poorly
                      with the situation on the ground."

                      Given Russian and Yugoslav willingness, even eagerness, to take
                      on the KLA, NATO can not afford to do nothing. Such a maneuver
                      would create the worst of all outcomes for NATO, which would end
                      up caught in the crossfire with serious questions about whom to
                      shoot. NATO cannot effectively fight the KLA, it cannot eliminate
                      the KLA’s leader, and it cannot let the Russians or the Serbs step
                      in. So NATO is stuck, playing the game of squeezing a little
                      harder on the "fringe hardliners," while appealing to Thaci to bring
                      his forces under control. In the end, this squeezing tactic is but a
                      slight variation of the "do nothing" approach, NATO hoping to step
                      up pressure just enough to keep the Russians and Serbs away
                      but not enough to draw too much KLA fire.