Pristina/Belgrade/Brussels, 28 July 2006: Independent Kosovo should be permitted its own army, despite Serb reservations, but it should be small, concentrated on performing international peacekeeping and developed and managed under NATO supervision.
An Army for Kosovo?,* the latest International Crisis Group report, explains the security and political reasons why the sovereign Kosovo expected to result from final status negotiations by early 2007 should be allowed such a force, to channel the old insurgent tradition of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and existing informal armed structures into official channels where they will not endanger either the new state or its neighbours.
Existing security structures must be placed under the control of the new institutions of democratic government, and an army – built in part upon the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), presently a civil emergency force but which incorporates much of the KLA legacy and is seen by Kosovo Albanians as an army-in-waiting – is an essential component. Paramilitary forces and those with links to organised crime must be closed down.
“If well managed, an army can help a new state develop a stable, multi-ethnic – or at least ethnically neutral – identity”, says Alex Anderson, Crisis Group’s Kosovo Project Director. “Every effort must be made to show Kosovo Serbs the new force is no threat to them and, over time to persuade them to join it in proportion to their numbers in society”.
Since NATO evicted Belgrade from the province in 1999, Kosovo has been run as a UN protectorate. When final status decisions are made in the next months, security needs, including the army question, are too sensitive to be excluded. NATO will provide fundamental protection for the new state for many years, but the accords should also specify its role in the army’s governance and a range of limitations on army numbers and capabilities – no more than 3,000 personnel, no tanks, heavy artillery, ground-to-ground missiles or attack aircraft.
The key members of the Contact Group guiding diplomacy, including the U.S., the UN Security Council and the UN’s Special Envoy, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari should introduce a legally or politically binding undertaking into the Kosovo final status determination on development of a small Kosovo defence force. The aim should be to graduate Kosovo into NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, together with Serbia, at which time that undertaking should be superseded by new treaty arrangements.
NATO peacekeepers should develop a closer partnership with the KPC, deepening and standardising the training relationship, and Kosovo’s government should build up its security policy capacity and budget for the creation of a defence ministry through 2007-2008.
“If the security pillar is downplayed in Kosovo, the state will be weakened”, says Nicholas Whyte, Director of Crisis Group’s Europe Program. “Kosovo has enough institutional weaknesses militating against its success already. It doesn’t need another”.