Admiral James Foggo III
Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples
KFOR Change of Command
Camp Film City, Pristina, Kosovo
28 November 2018
Mister Prime Minister, Ambassadors, Ministers, Faith Leaders, Fellow Flag and General Officers, Honored Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning. I am honored to be with such a distinguished audience—an audience committed to fostering continued peace and progress in Kosovo. It is precisely this continuity that we celebrate and re-affirm today.
In the time-honored military tradition of a Change of Command, we bring about the seamless transition of authority and responsibility from one Commander to the next. The mission remains. KFOR continues. NATO’s enduring commitment to peace and security in the Western Balkans lives on.
But let’s rewind the tape, let’s go back to June of 1999, the North Atlantic Council authorized the mission in Kosovo to establish an international security presence within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. It was in this context that NATO deployed 50,000 men and women from NATO and partner nations. NATO deployed the Kosovo Force.
For nearly two decades there have been NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo. In subzero winter days and hot summers, NATO has been on the ground supporting security in this region. Working with the Institutions in Kosovo and our partners in the EU, UN, and OSCE, KFOR contributes to a safe and secure environment and helps ensure freedom of movement. We have seen improvements in public safety, ethnic relations and airspace normalization. The professionalism and cooperation among Kosovo security organizations, institutions and its people have indeed resulted in a more capable and self-sufficient Kosovo.
At the KFOR helm, navigating a force of 4,000 through shoals and storms…note shoals and storms because Admiral Dragone and I are in the Navy…we find Salvatore Cuoci. Major General Salvatore Cuoci took over as Commander Kosovo Force XXII on 15 November 2017. I was here then, just as I am here today, and just as I will be next year. He is not just a seasoned tactician and experienced military commander. His astute diplomatic approach incorporated the full spectrum of influencers—in and beyond the Area of Responsibility. With his level-headed leadership and nuanced understanding of the region, he led his team to help local authorities maintain peace even when faced with volatility.
After the assassination of Oliver Ivanović in January of this year, General Cuoci and I visited the scene. A testament to his creativity and brilliance, he brought together Mr. Goran Rakic, Mayor of North Mitrovica, and Mr. Agim Bahtiri, Mayor of South Mitrovica, in a four-way handshake on the Austerlitz Bridge.
Like Ivo Andrić’s classic book—and yes I have read it cover to cover—The Bridge on the Drina, the Austerlitz Bridge over the Ibar River serves as an inter-community connection and crossing point, and symbolizes hope and the potential to build bridges, not burn bridges, and build prosperity for all of Kosovo’s people. This is classic Cuoci: Salvatore seizes the initiative, takes the appropriate risk, and makes a difference. This one moment, and photo that went viral, helped ease tension at a difficult time. It’s a pity that Mayor Rakic resigned from his post as Pristina’s Mayor of North Mitrovica effective yesterday.
That in no way diminishes the fact that General Cuoci has spearheaded an initiative to enhance planning capabilities and refine crisis management processes across all Kosovo Security Organizations. Through a series of dialogues and exchanges, every organization is more confident about each of their roles and responsibilities in event of a developing situation. Stronger together through dialogue—and you will hear me say that a lot today—exchange, and trust. That’s the Cuoci method.
Every day and in every way, he inspired greater partnership across partner institutions and organizations. The two "Silver Saber” exercises in 2018 as mentioned by the Prime Minister earlier innovated better integration and interoperability between KFOR and all the security institutions and agencies in Kosovo. On his initiative, he planned, directed and conducted a series of workshops to share information and refine cooperative procedures to prevent the proliferation of Foreign Fighters.
He took his responsibilities to NATO and to the KFOR mission seriously. He thought deeply to determine the best solution to the future Area of Operations Command and Control Structure, advocating for the right-sizing of diminishing resources g to face a realistic future. This C2 Structure will enable continued achievement of military objectives established by NATO authorities for the time being. What a tremendous legacy!!
With Enduring commitment, General Cuoci communicated and commanded this diverse, multinational, military peacekeeping force. He faced complex and dynamic challenges every day…for 379 days away from his family.
And all the while, Salvatore was the consummate professional and humble soldier. Always respectful, generous, and kind, he sets the example for everyone, at all times. And it should not surprise anyone that he and his command team work very long hours, sometimes sustained only by Coke Zero and very dark chocolate…I understand a double Italian espresso makes him even more manic! I know about espresso, I live in Naples!
Salvatore, you’ve been a true friend and ally. I trust you! And I congratulate you. As we say in the U.S. Navy, Bravo Zulu: Signal Flags for "Well Done”…fair winds and following seas, shipmate!
Now, Major General Lorenzo D’Addario is an accomplished soldier and comes to KFOR from Rome, armed for mission success. He is neither a Balkans or a NATO Novice: he’s a former Battalion Commander of Multinational Brigade South-West in 2004 during Operation Decisive Endeavor right here. Likewise, he was a regimental and Task Force Commander in Bakwa and Gulistan Afghanistan—a tough neighborhood. I look forward to working with Lorenzo, as I did with Salvatore, to ensure that NATO and KFOR continues to assist Kosovo with Euro-Atlantic integration.
And so as we transition the mantle of leadership here today from MGEN Cuoci to MGEN D’Addario, my pledge to MGEN D’Addario is to work with KFOR and my JFC Naples HQ as a team! The bottom line is that I am here to help and I will be here in 2019 as frequently as I was in 2018.
Looking ahead and with my direction to MGEN D’Addario to maintain a safe and secure environment in 2019, I would like to extend that TEAM approach beyond KFOR and JFC Naples to the Institutions in Kosovo and to Belgrade. Accordingly, there are other people in this room whom I would ask for help and to whom I would propose a few points to consider and some questions to ponder as we turn the corner on 2019.
My first point: frankly, Ladies and Gentlemen, some recent events have caused me pause. Where I am pleased with the movement forward on solving the murder of Oliver Ivanovic, I am concerned that one of the second and third order effects of these arrests has been to imperil the dialog between the Serbian Armed Forces and CDR KFOR.
We have enjoyed a collaborative dialog with Serbian Chief of Defense Dikovic and now Mojsilović in 2018 and we have conducted Joint Patrols with SAF along the northern ABL in Kosovo for quite some time. This dialog and these patrols have contributed to a Safe and Secure Environment in 2018–it avoids mistakes and miscalculations. My question to you and to Belgrade is, will the actions of all parties allow this dialog and cooperation to continue in 2019?
My Second Point: I believe that both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to be more integrated with Euro-Atlantic institutions. I believe that this is important for both nations. However, I am concerned that through some recent actions—such as a significant rise in tariffs on Serbian goods—that Kosovo risks becoming more isolated. So my question to some in this room is, do you still aspire to the goal of Euro-Atlantic integration and if so, how will you move forward in 2019?
My Third Point: I have heard a lot of discussion in the last year on the issue of KSF Transformation. Outside Kosovo, this discussion has always been held in terms of a requirement for Constitutional Reform… I have not seen Constitutional Reform in 2018 to facilitate the transformation. However, I am aware of some dialog with stakeholders on the issue, but not all of the stakeholders…
In mitigation, I am told by reliable sources that the process may take ten years and that’s not a bad thing. It would be wise to take your time in doing so and ensure that all parties are comfortable with the transformation process. So I would ask, how will these observations play out in 2019? And finally, who will man, train, equip and pay for these forces?
My Fourth Point: In 2013, there was an agreement between NATO Secretary General Rasmussen and Mr. Thaci to not deploy KSF forces North without the concurrence of Commander KFOR. As we discuss the potential transformation of the KSF, will the Institutions in Kosovo continue to abide by this agreement in 2019? I’m told by reliable sources that you will and I hope that this is the case.
My Fifth and Final Point: KFOR’s role is to be the "third” responder in the event of a threat to a Safe and Secure Environment. Except in extreme cases, we have generally deferred to the Kosovo Police as first responder and EULEX as second responder. The decision to move KFOR out of garrison and maneuver around Kosovo in times of an emergency is made by the Commander KFOR in conjunction with me. I am his reporting senior—I am his boss.
Each time we deploy it’s a sign that we have not achieved an enduring Safe and Secure Environment. In fact, it’s a step backward. I am interested in moving forward, so my question to Belgrade and Pristina is, how can we reduce the need for KFOR to respond in 2019? Your actions must speak louder than your words. I look forward to your continued progress.
Thank you for your attention and your indulgence and congratulations to MGEN Cuoci and MGEN D’Addario.