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Opinions Archive 1999
Peace Enforcers vs. Peacekeepers

CNN's summary of NATO's entry into Kosovo today has been "So far, so good." It is everyone's hope that the KFOR mission remains undramatic. However, as retired Lt. General David Benton III reminded the network on June 10, the KFOR mission is not a "peacekeeping" mission, but rather a "peace enforcement" mission. "Peacekeepers" are invited observers, while "peace enforcers" are authorized to use force to ensure compliance by potentially uncooperative factions with peace agreements.

The U.S. military knows all too well how peace enforcement missions can turn ugly very quickly, with operations in Somalia and Haiti figuring prominently among them. And as Operation Safe Haven in Panama demonstrated, even humanitarian missions can turn nasty with little or no warning. After thousands of Cuban refugees in Panama rioted, Gorgas Army Hospital was filled with soldiers covered with bandages and sporting casts on limbs - this from unarmed refugees.

NATO forces are moving into an area where belligerents ceased combat voluntarily - not because they were incapable of continued fighting. All sides remain armed and hostile, and not necessarily in agreement with accords signed at the highest level. KFOR commanders at all levels must ensure that their troops conduct themselves as the highly disciplined soldiers they are trained to be. Since NATO and the UN have given KFOR troops the authority to use force, it is imperative that such force be used judiciously and carefully when necessary. With thousands of young men, most of whom do not speak or understand the local languages, patrolling the streets with automatic weapons in a potentially hostile environment, the possibility of a deadly incident - both intentional and accidental - is quite high.

Day one of KFOR mission may have passed without bloodshed, but there are innumerable days ahead, and NATO has, as yet, attempted little more than entering the country. Two potential problems have already arisen. While diplomats and generals squabble over how Russian troops will be deployed and how they will fit in the KFOR chain of command, NATO soldiers must already work alongside their ill defined allies, who continue to assert control over Slatina airbase. And not only has the KLA refused to be disarmed, but it has reportedly launched attacks in the wake of withdrawing Serb forces and has issued thinly veiled threats against the Russians. Meanwhile, the KLA claims retreating Serbs are burning villages as they go. Serbs joyously welcomed Russian forces into Pristina, but it remains unclear how Serbs will react to NATO forces who, until recently, were dropping bombs and missiles on their homes. And we have yet to see how returning ethnic Albanians will react when they are again face to face with their Serb neighbors, though judging by the reported departure of Serb civilians from the province, the Serbs have an idea.

The first NATO forces are in Kosovo and lead elements have reached Pristina safely. "So far, so good."

Source: Stratfor Kosovo Crisis Center

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