Operation Joint Guardian
Kosovo Force (KFOR)
In July 2000, command of MNB(E) was transferred to Brig. Gen. Dennis Hardy who finished his rotation on Dec. 15, 2000. Task Force Falcon was the responsibility of the 1st Armored Division under the command of Brig. Gen. Kenneth Quinlan.
Task Force Falcon was in Kosovo to enforce all aspects of the Military Technical Agreement, with a primary function of providing a safe and secure environment to the residents.
No timeline for Operation Joint Guardian was established. The mission was assessed periodically and the force commitment adjusted as needed.
The U.S. was committed to supporting peace in Kosovo by implementing the Military Technical Agreement and participating in the NATO-led military force. NATO's aim was to achieve a secure environment to ensure peace and stability in Kosovo without the presence of a NATO-led military force.
On July 28, 2003 elements of the 1st Infantry Division handed over KFOR duties to the 28th Infantry Division.
Multi-National Brigade (East) [MNB (East)] was part of the NATO led KFOR and was comprised of soldiers from the United States, Greece, Armenia, Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania. The mission of KFOR and MNB (East) was to provide a safe and secure environment in the region.
In a ceremony held 26 February 2004, Brig. Gen. Jerry Beck and the 28th Infantry Division officially handed over authority of Multi-national Brigade (East) to Brig. Gen. Rick Erlandson and the 34th Infantry Division. After serving in a six-month rotation that began in July, Beck and the 28th ID left Kosovo for the state of Pennsylvania where it is headquartered.
The UN-authorized, NATO-led peacekeeping force for Kosovo (KFOR) continued to carry out its mandate to maintain a safe and secure environment and defend against external threats. UNMIK Civilian Police continued to transfer basic police authority and functions to the local Kosovo Police Service (KPS). The Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), comprised largely of demilitarized former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members, continued to develop its capacity as a civilian civil emergency response agency. UNMIK international civilian authorities and KFOR leadership generally maintained effective control over security forces; however, there were reports that elements of the security forces acted independently of their respective authority.
The reported phenomenon of "strategic sales" of property persisted in 2004. There was evidence that Kosovo Albanians in several ethnically mixed areas used violence, intimidation, and offers to purchase property at inflated prices in order to break up and erode Kosovo Serb neighborhoods. Some cases of violence against Serbs may have been attempts to force persons to sell their property. An UNMIK regulation prevents the wholesale buy out of Kosovo Serb communities and seeks to prevent the intimidation of minority property owners in certain geographic areas; however, it was rarely enforced.
The 16 March 2004 drowning of three Kosovo Albanian children from Cabra village in Zubin Potok Municipality ignited the March riots; the surviving child claimed Kosovo Serbs had chased them into the Ibar River with a dog. The media, prior to police and judicial investigations, reported this story. In addition, the drive-by shooting on March 15 of a 19 year old Kosovo Serb male in the Serb village of Caglavica in the Pristina region caused local Serbs to block the main Pristina Skopje highway.
On 16 March 2004, approximately 18,000 Albanians attended prescheduled demonstrations against the arrests of ex KLA members by UNMIK Police. On March 17, demonstrations by Albanians started in Mitrovica to protest the drownings and in Pristina against the Serb roadblocks in Caglavica and Gracanica. Unrest soon spread to other parts of Kosovo and became increasingly violent.
Violence errupted on 17 March 2004 in an attack on an observation post at the Serbian Church of Saint Uros in Ferizaj/Urosevac by a crowd of approximately 500 rioters. One US Soldier and 17 Greek soldiers received minor injuries from items the crowd was throwing. The crowd began attacking the observation post with rocks and bricks. Then the crowd began attacking the Greek soldiers with grenades and improvised incendiary devices. The crowd began setting fire to the first of three unoccupied military vehicles while the soldiers waited for the Greek Army's Quick Reaction Force that had been called to assist the soldiers. Then the rioters attempted to enter the church and stopped when they were confronted by the soldiers inside, but continued to attack the church with grenades and incendiary devices. The soldiers fired their weapons in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd, which had grown to approximately 1,000 to 3,000 people, and was still underway when the QRF arrived in armored vehicles to evacuate the soldiers at approximately 10 p.m. The rioters began throwing incendiary devices at the QRF vehicles and were not dispelled until U.S. helicopters began dropping tear gas on the crowd, dispersing them enough for the evacuation to take place. During the evacuation, rioters fired at the soldiers and their vehicles. Once the evacuation was complete U.S. military police and members of the Kosovo Police Service arrived to secure the church site. The crowd, reduced to about 150 people, did not continue the attack. By the end of the night an estimated 200 incendiary devices, 15 grenades, and numerous rocks were thrown at the soldiers and the church during the attack, resulting in the destruction of three military vehicles and damage to two others.
It appeared that there was a pattern to destroy Serb property and to expel the Serb population from enclaves in southern Kosovo. As a result of the riots, 20 persons were killed, including 8 Kosovo Serbs and 12 Kosovo Albanians, more than 900 were injured, more than 900 Serb, Romani, and Ashkali houses and 30 orthodox churches or monasteries were burned or severely damaged, and over 4,000 Serbs, Ashkalis, and Roma were made homeless.
The March 2004 riots involved an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 demonstrators over 2 days in every major city in Kosovo. Numerous serious attacks on Serbian Orthodox churches and cemeteries occurred during the March riots, resulting in extensive property damage, including the destruction or damage of 30 Orthodox religious sites and over 900 houses and businesses of ethnic minorities. The March riots resulted in the 20 deaths including of 8 ethnic Serbs and 12 ethnic Albanians.
The March riots, which targeted Serbs, Roma and Ashkali, were the most serious outburst of violence and destruction since the 1999 conflict. During the March riots, the Ashkali neighborhood in Vushtrri/Vucitrn was burned and looted, and its inhabitants took shelter at a KFOR base. Many refused to return by year's end. Many of those displaced in March, including Ashkali residents and Serbs, were displaced and had their homes burned for the second time. Increased violence, particularly during the March riots, may have been politically motivated and to some extent coordinated by ethnic Albanian extremists. Some Kosovo government leaders were slow to condemn the violence, exacerbating the problem and helping to legitimize the severe social abuse of minorities.
KFOR and UNMIK police were responsible for killing several protesters during riots in March 2004 after the protestors failed to heed prior warnings and threatened the international security officials or those they were protecting.
During the March riots, measures taken by KFOR and UNMIK police to protect themselves and others as well as to control the crowds resulted in several deaths of Albanian protesters and some allegations of police abuse. For example, an UNMIK police officer shot and killed a protester in Peja/Pec municipality while defending Serbian residents from Kosovar Albanian rioters. No legal charges were brought against KFOR soldiers or UNMIK police related to their actions during the March riots.
Kosovo Serbs, and to a lesser extent other minority communities, had considerable difficulty moving about safely without an international security escort. Following the March riots, KFOR and UNMIK police restricted movement in most of the affected areas and selectively imposed temporary curfews. Kosovo Serbs were frequently subjected to stonings and other low-level violence by Kosovo Albanians.
After public order was restored, police and KFOR commenced large-scale operations to apprehend those responsible for the riots. By June, over 270 persons had been arrested on a wide range of charges related to the riots, including murder, attempted murder, arson, and looting.
NATO's Kosovo Force continued to provide critical security to this region in support of the United Nations' Interim Administration in Kosovo. By early 2005 Task Force Falcon had approximately 1900 soldiers from both the active and reserve components deployed as part of Multi-National Brigade - East to enforce the "Military Technical Agreement" and to conduct operations to further deter hostilities and promote a stable environment. NATO's troop strength was reduced to 17,730 in 2004 with US forces contributing nearly 12 percent (2,010) of the personnel. Commanders did not expect NATO troops to leave the province by the original departure date of 2006.
Life in the Multi-National Brigade (East) sector of Kosovo reflected how much progress had been made in maintaining a safe and secure environment. While the mission always comes first, there were opportunities for off-duty soldiers to study, work out or just relax on the base camps. The only time soldiers were outside of the base camps, though, was when they were on missions. The variety of missions that KFOR performs was amazing. From patrolling city streets to assessing the needs of remote villages and everything in between, KFOR soldiers can be found throughout the sector.
Peacekeeping is a 24x7 mission, but there were opportunities for time off. The current pass policy states that after 30 days in theater soldiers are eligible, with their commander's permission, for a 4-day pass to Sofia, Bulgaria. While in Sofia, soldiers were allowed to consume alcohol (in moderation) and engage in sight-seeing.
Kosovo was administered by the U.N. Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) pursuant to UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1244. UNMIK promulgates regulations to address the civil and legal responsibilities of governmental entities and private individuals, and ratified laws passed by the Kosovo Assembly. UNMIK promulgated the Constitutional Framework for Provisional Self Government in Kosovo (the Constitutional Framework), which defined the Provisional Institutions of Self Government (PISG). Kosovo has a multiparty political system with four dominant ethnic Albanian parties and several minority parties and coalitions. In October 2004, Kosovo Assembly elections were held that were determined to be generally free and fair.
In 2005 the United States presented three principles on which a solution for Kosovo would be based - no divisions, no unifications with neighboring countries, and no return to the status quo. Talks on Kosovo's final status will be launched in September 2005 and will last less than a year. Kosovo will become independent in July 2006, according to Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi.
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