Rebuilding Kosovo

The recent violence in Kosovo signals a rapid unraveling of authority in the already unstable region. The NATO intervention which promised to provide peace and tolerance to the ethnically divided area is understaffed and underfunded.

Winter is always the hardest time of year, but this year it has hit the Kosovars harder than most. Their fragile and inadequate infrastructure has all but collapsed under the weight of winter, and Kosovars can no longer rely on having their basic needs for heat and water met. It will take billions of dollars to repair and build the necessary power plants, electrical lines and other equipment that are necessary to keep Kosovo from slipping further towards anarchy and misery.

The United States must not be stingy in pledging funds for Kosovo. After all, it was largely because of the United States that NATO troops are in Kosovo at all. Now that Kosovo is almost completely autonomous from Yugoslavia, it has only the U.N. and NATO to rely on for assistance. Isolated from their neighbors, the Kosovars are left to fight their own battles amongst themselves and against all odds. With little police presence--the police who do patrol the area are armed with handguns, but are facing gangs armed with grenades and automatic weapons--the number of killings has escalated recently. Over 400 people have been killed in the area since June.


The U.N. has so far been unsuccessful at recruiting police officers from other nations to aid in cracking down on vigilante violence. The U.S., which has already committed itself to the region, should step in to fill the gap if necessary.

The U.S. went into Kosovo to protect ethnic minorities, but in the aftermath it has been unable to produce harmony or even peace between the ethnic Albanians and the Serbs--its primary mission when NATO intervened almost a year ago.

Given the fact that an autonomous Kosovo was the most likely result of the intervention, some plans were implemented to foster democracy in the area. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe national and municipal elections may be held this fall. However, it is unreasonable to expect the Kosovars to pick up the pieces on their own.

The United States can legitimately expect other nations to pitch in--one of the major complaints is that the E.U. has failed to provide the $35 million it promised for policing in the region. Without these much-needed police officers the region will continue to suffer from lawlessness. NATO troops are not trained to fulfill the necessary roles of maintaining law and order and working with the community in an area wracked by violence and organized crime. It will take an adequate force of international police officers to fulfill this vital function.

U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and members of the Senate Armed Forces Committee have accused other NATO member nations of not pulling their full military weight in the region, leaving most of the work to the U.S. Although the U.S. has urged other nations to beef up their military presence, it has failed repeatedly to pay U.N. dues that would help that organization send aid to the region.

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