Thursday, February 02, 2006

Rumsfeld wants to cut US presence in Kosovo

Rumsfeld wants to cut US presence in Kosovo
>By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington and Daniel Dombey in Vienna
>Published: February 3 2006 00:25 | Last updated: February 3 2006 00:25
Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, wants to reduce the number of American troops in Kosovo, signalling that the Pentagon would like Nato allies to assume more responsibility for the mission in the breakaway Serbian province.

“We are all working together in Kosovo and the Balkans. Of course, we all went in together, and we have said we will come out together,” Mr Rumsfeld said in an interview with the Financial Times. “I am personally hoping that we can continue to reduce some of our forces there.”

A defence official said that with US forces heavily deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon wanted Nato to agree to the US withdrawing some troops. He said this would require other Nato countries picking up some slack but the freeing-up of US troops would reduce pressure on other countries to deploy, or maintain deployments, with US forces in Iraq.

Rumsfeld signals wish to see allies take reins in Kosovo
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The US has about 1,700 troops attached to a 16,000-strong Nato mission, but talk of withdrawal raises concerns in Europe. A Nato official said: “Considering the sensitive political process in Kosovo that has just begun, now is not the time to talk about reducing Kfor [the Nato Kosovo Force] or the US presence.”

Mr Rumsfeld’s comments come as the US, Russia and major European countries step up efforts to find a political solution for the province, which has been run by the United Nations since Nato-led forces ousted the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 1999. The ethnic Albanian majority wants independence while ethnic Serbs are adamant Kosovo should remain part of Serbia. The presence of US troops is symbolic because of the importance the Albanians attach to them.

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