Story and Video by JFC Naples Public Affairs
NATO’s Kosovo Force, or KFOR, continues its long term mission amid increased political tension between Kosovo and its neighbor Serbia.
Kosovo’s government voted Dec. 14 to transition its security force to an armed force, effectively announcing its decision to create an Army. It will be the first armed force for the nation in its 10-year history.
In November, Serbia blocked Kosovo from joining Europe’s INTERPOL, or International Police, which led to Kosovo leveraging a 100% tariff on Serbian imports.
Rhetoric followed between each nation’s capitals, Belgrade and Pristina, resulting in the EU and NATO attempting to calm the tension between the two rival nations.
NATO’s leadership expressed concern throughout the process.
"I regret that this decision was made despite the concerns expressed by NATO,” said NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Dec. 14 following Kosovo’s decision. "While the transition of the Kosovo Security Force is in principle a matter for Kosovo to decide, we have made clear that this move is ill-timed.”
"NATO remains committed through KFOR to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and to stability in the wider Western Balkans,” he added.
Meanwhile, the United States, Germany and Turkey, among others, affirmed Kosovo’s right to establish an armed force. But creating that force will take time and assistance from the international community and other nations.
"I expect Kosovo to proceed carefully, providing full transparency in the process,” said Admiral James Foggo, commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, and overseer of KFOR.
President Donald Trump has urged Serbia and Kosovo to secure a "historic" deal that would bring "long-sought" peace to the Balkan region.
The office of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Dec. 20 published a letter he received from Trump, in which the president says "I encourage you to seize this moment and to exercise the political leadership in making decisions needed to balance the interests of both countries."
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci received a similar letter from Trump.
Meanwhile, KFOR continues its mission to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo with more than 4,000 troops from 20 member and 8 partner nations.
KFOR’s Multinational Battlegroup East, comprised of Turkish, Polish, Romanian and U.S. soldiers is key to the effort, providing a visible and calming presence in the north of Kosovo, home to the majority of the nation’s ethnic Serbs.
Foggo visited MNBGE at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo Dec. 20 as part of his monthly visits to Balkans.
NATO established KFOR in 1999 following Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia. KFOR is NATO’s longest-running operation and largest mission in Europe.