NEWS AND ANALYSIS - COUNTDOWN TO INDEPENDENCE
The Czech generals will know by the end of this year at the latest whether they will command the multi-national brigade operating within the KFOR mission in Kosovo as of August 2005, chief of staff Pavel Stefka and Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl told journalists today.If the Czechs take up the command, the number of soldiers would have to be raised to 600. At present, there are 400 Czech troops in Kosovo who operate in a joint battalion with 100 Slovaks.The deployment of Czech soldiers abroad in 2005 still must be approved by the lower house.The structure of the mission started changing in the spring when it was planned that instead of stable units, there would be mobile units able to operate in the whole of Kosovo if need be.However, the plan was frustrated by the March clashes between the local Albanians and Serb minority.The KFOR mission in Kosovo is now composed of four multi- national brigades, one international military police unit and the high command.Along with Slovaks, Finns, Swedes, Irish and Latvians, Czechs are part of the Centre Brigade, commanded by Finnish soldiers. "At present it seems that only three brigades may remain there," Stefka told CTK earlier.If the Centre Brigade is abolished, the Czech troops would probably become part of the North-East Brigade, commanded by France. If the Centre Brigade is not abolished, the Czechs would take over its command from the Finns in August 2005. As commanders, they would need another 200 soldiers.The EU will take up the SFOER in Montenegro from NATO and the Czech military should therefore have 50 troops in the headquarters in Tuzla, northeast Bosnia, and about 25 air force members and two Mi-17 helicopters.
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