CNN In-Depth Specials - Kosovo: Prospects for Peace - Opinion

Misguided motives led to the chaos in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg
Special to CNN Interactive

Oberg is director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and
Future Research (TFF) in Lund, Sweden, where he heads the
Conflict-Mitigation Team to the Balkans, Georgia and Burundi.

(CNN) -- The conflicts that led to war and dissolution of the former
Yugoslavia took shape in the 1970s and early 1980s, and their
origins are much older. The paradox is that the international
community's self-appointed "conflict managers" have not treated the
Balkan conflicts as conflicts. Instead, they have wielded power and
practiced Realpolitik disguised as peacemaking and humanitarianism.

The international community -- a euphemism for a handful of top
leaders -- has historically been an integral party to the conflicts, not
an impartial mediator. A policy of disinterested conflict analysis,
mediation and conflict resolution would require different analyses,
means and institutions (with just a minimum of training).

The leaders of the republics of the former Yugoslavia all did their best
to destroy the federation from within. Today's situation, however, is
equally the result of the international community's failed conflict
management in four cases -- Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia
and Kosovo.

None of the peace agreements work as expected. The regions are more
polarized and ethnically cleansed than before. Democracy is formal
and imposed, not genuine. The countries are not armed simply for
defense, they are militarized.

War criminals are still at large. Refugees have not returned in any
significant numbers (except to Kosovo). The deeply human
dimensions of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and societal
regeneration have hardly begun. No commissions on truth or history
have been established.

Money -- always plentiful for military purposes -- is conspicuously
lacking for the prevention of civilian violence and for postwar
development. Integration into the EU may not take place for a long
time yet.

Finally, and fatally, the U.N. missions to these countries have been
thrown out, substituted with more expensive and heavy-handed
missions, or discontinued prematurely.

The Kosovo operation failed three ways

Failed violence prevention. There were more early warnings about
Kosovo than about any other conflict in the world. Our organization,
TFF, published "Preventing War in Kosovo" in 1992. But Kosovo's
problems never made the international agenda.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),
which had a mission in the province, suspended Yugoslavia's
membership in 1992 after Belgrade refused to accommodate
the mission.

Kosovo was not part of the Dayton negotiations. Neither was there
any other planned effort at dialogue, trust building, reconciliation or
negotiation, except what non-government organizations could do. The
international community recognized Yugoslavia in 1996 with Kosovo
inside it.

Failed peacemaking. The Kosovo Albanians under their elected
leader Ibrahim Rugova (to whom TFF's team served as goodwill
adviser, 1992-1996) advocated pragmatic non-violence. Neither
Belgrade nor Western diplomats understood the potential of this.

Belgrade turned Kosovo into something like a police state, declared it
an internal affair and did nothing to solve the conflict. Prime Minister
Milan Panic's government was the exception (1992-93), and
presumably was the best moment for international mediation. The
West ignored it. Rugova resisted. A few diplomats tried but were
ignored back home.

Western actors continued to ignore all civilian peace efforts,
clandestinely gave weapons to the Kosovo Liberation Army (as they
did to similar groups in Croatia and Bosnia), marginalized Rugova,
and favored absurd black-and-white images of what always was, and
is, a pretty grayish conflict. Neither could they get an OSCE mission
with 2,000 "verifiers" in place nor could they make it work for peace.

Then came the parodic "negotiations" in Rambouillet and threats
about bombing. The West had cornered itself: Bombs had to fall to
save face, not to solve any problem.

NATO's bombing blunder predictably converted a limited ethnic
cleansing-cum-war into a massive exodus of refugees into Albania
and Macedonia. The refugees fortunately came back soon after the
bombing ended. In contrast, 800,000 to 900,000 Serbs ethnically
cleansed from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo have not received help to

Failed postwar peace building. NATO, the U.N. and OSCE, and
several hundred non-governmental organizations, now populate
Kosovo. Under their eyes, about 250,000 Serbs, Romas, Turks,
Gorani, Bosnians, Croats and Jews have been ethnically cleansed
from Kosovo by the very ethnic Albanian leadership with whom the
West intimately cooperates.

These various efforts undermine U.N. Security Council Resolution
1244, which set up a civil administration of the province. Kosovo is
not treated as a legal part of Yugoslavia. Belgrade is not consulted.
Property and resources are taken over. The Kosovo Liberation Army
has not been disarmed; it has only changed uniforms and become
the Kosovo Protection Force (KPF) with the same leaders. Yugoslavia
is prevented from monitoring its borders. In short, it is an occupation.

Most of the staffers with the various missions have no experience
with Kosovo before NATO's bombing campaign. Or they have been
assigned tasks for which they have no professional training.

KFOR's 45,000 soldiers -- more than Belgrade ever had in the
province -- have been unable to stop ethnic cleansing and restore
law and order. Because of the war, the weapons trade, the sanctions
and the internationals, the Mafia is stronger than ever.

No one in any of the missions works directly and full-time with such
concepts as forgiveness, reconciliation, tolerance, peace. Nor is
anyone trained and educated in such approaches. The U.N. Mission
in Kosovo (UNMIK) receives only a fraction of what it needs, and
seems unable to fill municipal and other positions.

The U.N. and KFOR have so antagonized even the most conciliatory
Serbs that they have left the governing Transitional Council. In
principle, there are four governments: Yugoslavia/Serbia, the U.N.,
the one under Rugova, and that of Hacim Thaci, who heads the
Kosovo Protection Force. In addition, missions compete to take the
credit -- or to pass the buck.

Worst perhaps, there is no peace agreement. Hardworking mission
members -- and donor countries -- do not know whether they
contribute to an independent Kosovo, re-integration into Serbia or to
something else. After the local war and the bombing, all workable
solutions imaginable in the 1990s are now defunct.

Kosovo -- a pawn

The West deliberately leaves the 9 million people of Serbia out of the
postwar perspective (as do the media). Given the destruction it
wrought on the country, such indifference is unethical. It is also
evidence that humanitarian concerns do not guide Realpolitik.

Add to all this the West's refusal to compensate Yugoslavia's trading
partners that paid for our sanctions: There may well be a Stability
Pact, but there will be no stability.

Slowly but surely it will dawn upon the deceived citizens of the West
that the Balkans constitute an exploitable pawn in a larger game
related to other moves -- NATO expansion, containment of Russia,
the Caspian Sea oil discoveries, and the military-industrial complex.
Kosovo is one brick in a new Cold War wall farther east.

It was a Western "civilizing" mission. Nations must accept free
markets, NATO's doctrine, EU militarization, selective human rights
for the chosen people, and democracy in the form of "free" elections.
We must accept NATO, not the U.N. or OSCE, as the only
peacemaker under the only superpower.

We are supposed to believe there is no alternative to all this and to
bombing. In the long run, this sort of intellectual poverty threatens to
make us look like the "ugly West" in the eyes of all other cultures.

The Danish traveling journalist, Franz von Jessen, wrote that the
Balkans have always been the change big powers used in their
transactions. That was in 1913.

The recent Balkan tragedies compel us to ask whether our moral and
intellectual growth has matched our technological and material
growth. The absence of self-criticism in the West is ominous.

The Transnational Foundation's conflict mitigation team has worked with conflict analysis, mediation and peace education in all parts of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Between 1992 and 1996 it mediated a written dialogue between the Belgrade government and the Kosovo
Albanian leadership around an international draft treaty aimed to promote a secure environment, relative demilitarization, trust, negotiation. The treaty would been implemented under the guidance of a civilian U.N. (or OSCE) authority cooperating with relevant
non-governmental organizations and local parties. The document was called "Memorandum of Understanding between the U.N. and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia concerning a U.N. Temporary Authority for a Negotiated Settlement in Kosovo," 1996, available from TFF (e-mail:

Target, February 2000 No 5, Feb 4
Newsletter of the Committee for Peace in the Balkans

Kosovo today

By Alice Mahon MP

Chair, Committee for Peace in the Balkans

I visited Kosovo last autumn as part of a delegation organised by the North Atlantic Assembly Civilian Affairs Committee. My conclusion then was that Kosovo is being ethnically cleansed of all minorities and that the KLA is
deeply implicated in this.

This view is reinforced by a growing body of evidence from sources such as Amnesty International, whose latest report at the end of December said that violence against Serbs, Roma, Muslim Slavs and moderate Albanians was
still increasing and pointed to a failure by the United Nations mission to protect human rights. Amnesty is concerned that the UN mission and Kfor appear reluctant to take steps to bring the KLA to justice.

The report of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe on human rights violations in Kosovo, also published in December, confirms that since Kfor forces entered the province on 12 June there has been a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The report says: 'Kosovo Serbs, Roma, Muslim Slavs and others have been targeted by elements of the Kosovar Albanian population for expulsion, harassment, intimidation, house-burning, abductions and death.' It highlights
two horrific trends: 'the targeting of vulnerable, elderly Kosovo Serbs and the increasing participation of juveniles in human rights violations, underlining the growing intolerance that has emerged within the Kosovo
Albanian community.'

The report contains many witness statements concerning KLA involvement in the violence both before and after the demilitarisation deadline of 19 September, including most recently by members of the nascent Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK). The OSCE concludes that despite denials by the KLA leadership that it is involved in today's violence: 'It seems clear that the extent to UCK [KLA] and now TMK involvement is of such a nature and scope that the question of explicit or tacit involvement by the leadership requires close examination by the international community.'

UNHCR, the refugee agency, says that 250,000 people have been driven out since June. The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry estimates the figure at 350,000. The majority are Serbs, but Roma, Jews, Turks and others have also been
ethnically cleansed on a massive scale.

Historian Paul Polansky who lived amongst the Roma in Kosovo between July and November last year, has documented discrimination against Romany people by the UN, NATO and major aid agencies. After calling attention to a lack of medical facilities, food and security, he was threatened with expulsion by the very agency which invited him there - the UNHCR.

Prior to NATO's war, Polansky points out, Roma were living in integrated settlements. Now they are being ethnically cleansed 'because of the colour of their skin'.

Cedomir Prlincevic, president of the Jewish community in Pristina was driven out by the KLA. When two dozen armed men broke into his family's apartment, he says: 'My mother, who is 80 years old, suffered a heart attack because it reminded her of 1943 when Hitler's SS units broke into her apartment in the same way.'

Prlincevic also stresses that 'terror against the non-Albanians started after Kfor's arrival in Kosovo'. He said: 'I showed a document to a British major providing that I was the president of the Jewish community in Pristina. He
just looked at me and said "forget it, it's currently irrelevant".

It is a bitter irony that while the rest of Yugoslavia remains a genuinely multi-ethnic society, in Kosovo, where Kfor presides, the attempt to create an ethnically pure state by terror is proceeding apace.

Globe-Gazette (Mason City, Iowa)
Thursday, February 3, 2000

Writer describes ethnic cleansing in war-torn Kosovo
By KRISTIN BUEHNER, Of The Globe-Gazette

MASON CITY - Talk of injustice, ethnic cruelty and wasted relief efforts in
war-torn Kosovo created an air of quiet astonishment at the Wednesday meeting of the Noon Lions Club in Mason City.

Mason City native Paul Polansky, a writer and historian, talked about his
work in Kosovo where he recently spent five months living among the Romany people, commonly referred to as Gypsies. He also spent time in a United Nations Gypsy refugee camp, where he documented the lack of medicine, food and other basic needs.

Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia, is part of the Balkans. It is bordered on
the south and east by Serbia, on the west by Montenegro and on the south by Albania and Macedonia.

"I wish I could bring you some hope of change," said Polansky, 57, whose
permanent address is Prague, Czech Republic. "I wish I could tell you there was a future for the people of Kosovo, especially its displaced people ... I wish I could tell you more about Kosovo, because you certainly don't read about it in the newspaper."

Polansky spoke of the ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Kosovar
Albanians in retaliation for similar atrocities previously committed by the Serbs.

Although NATO forces intervened to enable them to return to their homes,
both NATO and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - the umbrella organization for aid organizations in Kosovo - are doing nothing to stop the killing, Polansky said. Minority people, Serbs and Gypsies included, are being exterminated by the Albanians.

And unlike other ethnic groups, the Gypsies are not being accepted as
refugees into any nation, Polansky said.

One of the more disturbing aspects of the injustice is that international
aid being sent to Kosovo is not being dispersed among the people most in need, Polansky said.

Although he believes most aid agencies mean well, they have left the
Albanians in charge of executing relief efforts.

Lions Club members called the talk "excellent," but said the message was

"I just feel frustrated that we can't do more about the situation in Kosovo
and use more of our political clout to help his cause," said Mason City chiropractor Richard Haas.

"It has always amazed me that the press vilifies anyone who finds anything
wrong with the United Nations when there are real questions as to whether we should be giving the level of funding we are," said Joel Hanes, who is retired. "It's very disturbing. The reason that we allowed the U.N. to send troops to Kosovo is because of the very thing that's still going on."

June 10, 1999


A contributor to the web site has written that Croatian Army Colonel Agim Ceku has been made the military commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

The contributor also alleges that the West has acknowledged that a Croatian general helped found the KLA. While STRATFOR has found reference to an Agim Ceku as a senior KLA official in the company of Hashim Thaci in mid-April, we have found no reference to Ceku being affiliated with the Croatian Army. We also have not been able to verify this new appointment. But valid or not, the allegations are worthy of comment, as they have a long history and potentially serious implications.

When the KLA launched its offensive in the summer of 1998, temporarily winning control of 40 percent of Kosovo, Reuters' Serbia correspondent Jovan Kovacevic reported that the KLA had been founded and was being led by an unnamed Croatian general. It was assumed at the time that the general in question was Brigadier General Rahim Ademi, the highest ranking ethnic Albanian in the Croatian Army. Ademi reportedly took part in Operation Storm, the Croatian offensive in the summer of 1995 that drove some 100,000-350,000 ethnic Serbs out of Krajina and Western Slavonia and, according to Western analysts, played a major role in forcing Serb acceptance of the Dayton Accords. At the time, General Wesley Clark cited the allegations when he warned Croatia not to get involved in the fighting in Kosovo. However, Ademi denied he was involved with the KLA, as did the Croatian Defense Ministry and Albanian organizations in Croatia, and Ademi was seen performing his regular duties as deputy commander of the Croatian Army's third military district in Knin.

While Ademi's role in the KLA is questionable, all sides agree that lower-ranking ethnic Albanian veterans of the Croatian Army serve in the KLA. Ton Marku, chairman of the Democratic Union of Albanians in Croatia and head of the Union of Albanian Communities last June confirmed that several hundred ethnic Albanians from Croatia, including many with military experience, were fighting as volunteers in Kosovo. Marku said that many ethnic Croats, including Croatian Armed Forces officers, had volunteered but were not fighting on the front lines in Kosovo. Some specific Croatian Army veterans have been reported in Kosovo. Belgrade's Beta news agency reported in September 1998 that one of several factions in Kosovo, operating under the name KLA but not recognizing the political leadership of any Kosovar Albanian, was headed by former Yugoslav People's Army Captain and Croatian Army Colonel Naim Maloku. According to Jane's Intelligence Review, Maloku is currently assistant commander of the KLA's Second Operational Zone in Llap. Croatian Army officer Fehmi Ladrovci was reportedly killed in Kosovo last September. Other reports claim that KLA soldiers have received arms, equipment, uniforms, and training from Croatia.

It is doubtful that Zagreb pulls the KLA's strings, but there are certainly stronger ties between the two than just an active expatriate Albanian community in Croatia. This is interesting, in large part due to the role played by Croatia in 1991 and 1995.

Marku said that Albanians in Croatia had organized military units at the very beginning of Croatia's war of secession, and had modeled their plans for Kosovo after those of Croatian National Guard commander Martin Spegelj. Many ethnic Albanians fought the Serbs on the side of the Croats and the Bosnian Moslems, in anticipation of the future conflict in Kosovo. The model this experience laid out for Kosovo apparently extended to the end of the Bosnian and Croatian wars, when the combination of a NATO bombing campaign and an offensive by the American and German trained, backed, and armed Croatian Army forced the Serbs to the bargaining table in Dayton. As recently as April 15, Defense Secretary William Cohen pointed out the success of this combination of bombing and proxy ground war to the Senate Armed Services Committee, during testimony on U.S. relations with the KLA. The U.S. insists it is neither arming nor training the KLA, but it has said nothing about the possibility that some of the instruction and aid it gave Croatia may be trickling down.

25. June 1999


It is becoming harder by the day to justify NATO's continued collaboration with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). A front page article in the June 25 New York Times cites KLA commanders, former Albanian government officials, and Western diplomats who claim KLA leader Hashim Thaci and two of his lieutenants led purges of the KLA ranks, to root out and kill potential challengers to Thaci's leadership. No one has come forward to say they witnessed Thaci or his associates, Azem Syla and Xhavit Haliti, personally carrying out the killings, though reports to this effect have circulated for years. Moreover, there have been numerous documented accounts of people killed shortly after criticizing or being threatened by Thaci and his associates, whose reputations for ruthlessness and intimidation are legendary.

Among Thaci's alleged victims listed in the New York Times was rebel commander Ilir Konushevci - killed in KLA held territory after accusing Haliti of siphoning a profit off arms sales to the KLA. His death was blamed on the Serbs. Another was Ahmet Krasniqi, a former Yugoslav Army colonel who, sponsored by the administration of moderate Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, brought 600 troops and $4.5 million to assist the KLA against the Serbs. Krasniqi, who Rugova hoped would bring legitimacy to the moderates on the battlefield, was assassinated in Tirana in September 1998, allegedly at the orders of Thaci and with the cooperation of the Albanian government. Two more KLA officers, Agim Ramadani and Sali Ceku, were killed in April of this year after opposing Thaci, and their deaths were blamed on the Serbs. Thaci did publicly threaten Rugova's life, after the moderate leader left for Italy and refused to back Thaci's self-declared bid for government. However the New York Times' allegations have been denied by Thaci and his associates and challenged by State Department spokesman James Rubin.

What Thaci and Rubin have not been able to deny is the wave of reprisals against Serbs carried out by Kosovar Albanians, including members of the KLA. Serbs have been kidnapped, beaten, and killed, their houses and businesses looted and burned, and NATO has been unable to stop the campaign. KLA soldiers were arrested by KFOR after they were discovered with bound, beaten, and dead prisoners in a police station in Kosovo. A Serb professor and two Serb workers were found bound and shot to death at the University of Pristina. KLA troops reportedly overran the Devic monastery, looted and vandalized it, terrorized the priest and nuns with gunfire, and raped at least one nun. KLA officials deny their troops' involvement in the attacks on Serbs, charging that civilian youth and criminals are posing as KLA members and donning the uniforms and insignia of the group. They do not explain why Albanian civilians would want to frame the KLA for such crimes.

The Serb press raises more questions about the advisability of cooperating with the KLA in reports that the KLA, unhappy with Italian troops' defense of Serbs in Pec, fired at visiting Italian foreign Minister Lamberto Dini. This report has not been confirmed by other sources. Also, according to a reporter for Jane's Intelligence Review, evidence recovered last December from Osama bin Laden- linked terrorists in Yemen includes video footage of the terrorists training with the KLA in either Kosovo or Albania. While adding these new reports, allegations, and evidence to previous reports of KLA links to Middle East terrorists and drug and gun trafficking, one can only question the willingness and speed with which NATO has come to accept the KLA's de facto leadership role in Kosovo.

The problem is, NATO simply has no options. It has so elevated the KLA throughout Operation Allied Force, so marginalized Rugova and the moderates, and so demonized the Serbs, that it can not now tear down Thaci's organization. NATO was successfully manipulated into waging a war on behalf of the KLA and its backers in the Albanian government. NATO is now learning that it is impossible not to take sides in a conflict. Unless it is now willing to combat the KLA and take complete and sole military and political control of the province, it has just handed control of Kosovo to a group no more nor less ethical and humane than Arkan's Tigers. NATO attempted to wage an even-handed humanitarian war to impose a peaceful tie between hostile camps engaged in a very messy, centuries-old blood feud. Now, too late, it learns what it stepped into.

June 29, 1999


Organised gangs from Albania have been looting houses belonging to Kosovo Serbs, German junior defence minister Peter Wichert said Tuesday. He said that German army units stationed in southern Kosovo had evidence that the looting was not just the result of spontaneous reactions by ethnic Albanians of Kosovo. Vehicles taking away Serb property have headed for Albania, Wichert said. The German army was going to step up efforts in the sector it controls to ensure security and order, he said, with a further 600 troops coming to reinforce the German contingent around Prizren by the weekend.

July 6, 1999


The rebel-led provisional government of Kosovo refuses to acknowledge unconditionally the legal authority of the United Nations civilian administration in the region, and warns that it could revert to armed struggle if the U.N. administration fails to lead Kosovo toward independence.

Senior rebel leaders said the relationship between the U.N. administration and the provisional government of Kosovo formed by Kosovo Liberation Army commander Hashim Thaci had yet to be determined.

Their words came as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan named French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner a U.N. administrator tasked with rebuilding Kosovo.

"It is not quite clear yet who has what authority," Mr. Thaci, a 29-year-old history graduate turned guerrilla leader nicknamed "The Snake," said in his new headquarters in the offices of the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Thaci also hedged his bets on an agreement he signed last month with the commander of North Atlantic Treaty Organization peacekeeping troops in Kosovo, Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, under which the KLA would disarm within a period of 90 days.

Disputing Disarmament "We turned in some weapons today, but will see how things go," Mr. Thaci said, adding that the agreement with NATO didn't stipulate that KLA members were no longer allowed to carry arms.

British NATO troops on Friday killed two KLA members and wounded two others during mass demonstrations in Pristina to denounce Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and celebrate the KLA that took both NATO and Mr. Thaci by surprise.

The rebel leader initially said the demonstrators were refugees celebrating their return from Macedonia. But once he realized the magnitude of the outpouring, Mr. Thaci, surrounded by his bodyguards, rushed down to the street from his second-floor office to shake demonstrators' hands.

Mr. Thaci, who has emerged as the main Kosovo Albanian interlocutor for NATO and the embattled remains of the Serb community in the region, has spent much of the last three weeks positioning his army to form the backbone of a U.N. administration. He has moved quickly to appoint senior KLA military commanders as mayors in major cities in western Kosovo such as Pec, Djakovica and Decani, and has formed a full-fledged provisional government based on agreements between the Kosovo political parties at the failed Rambouillet peace talks earlier this year. "The U.N. administration cannot work without a structure. Kosovo citizens will be that structure," said Mr. Thaci's information minister, Bajram Kosumi.

Government spokesmen warned that they do not recognize the June agreement between NATO and Mr. Milosevic that ended three months of NATO bombing. That agreement formed the basis for both the U.N.

Security Council resolutions that put Kosovo under international administration during a three-year transition period.

'Nobody Asked Us' "We accept no agreement of Belgrade," Mr. Thaci said. "Nobody asked us about the agreement, it does not oblige us to anything," added Jakup Krasniqi, a former KLA spokesman and Mr. Thaci's minister of reconstruction.

Apparently oblivious to Kosovo's needs for Western aid in rebuilding its badly damaged infrastructure and its deeply wounded society, Mr. Krasniqi warned that the KLA could again take up arms if the U.N. administration failed to lead Kosovo toward independence.

The administration's mandate is to rebuild Kosovo, not to determine whether it remains part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia or achieves independence.

"Either the U.N. administration works toward independence or there will be conflict," Mr. Krasniqi said in a bare office in the Chamber of Commerce, where only Serb-language books recalled its former Serb occupant. Insisting that Mr. Thaci's provisional government would retain some degree of authority in Kosovo, Mr. Krasniqi added: "If we can't cooperate with the U.N. administration in the cities, we will again have the mountains and the villages," a reference to the countryside from where the KLA waged its guerrilla war against Serb military forces.

July 6, 1999
Staff Reporters


Throughout its 11-week air war against Yugoslavia, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said it had no formal contacts with the spirited but loosely organized Kosovo Liberation Army.

Now that the fighting is over, a different picture is emerging of the role the guerrilla army played in helping NATO to evict Serb forces from Kosovo.

KLA leaders and NATO officials say they worked more closely together than previously admitted, especially in the last days of the conflict before Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic threw in the towel. By supplying NATO with coordinates of enemy positions and flushing Serb forces out into the open, the KLA helped the alliance hit the mark in some of the most devastating bombing attacks of the war's final days.

For two months after the alliance launched its air campaign, the Albanian irregulars and NATO's million-dollar jets fought two separate battles against Yugoslav forces. Their tactical goals converged on May 23, when the KLA launched an offensive into Kosovo. Dubbed Operation Arrow, the campaign aimed to open a salient into Kosovo from Albania and resupply its guerrillas deeper in the province.


As the KLA pressed its campaign in western Kosovo, it forced Serb troops out of their hiding places and into the open in the Mount Pastrik area. KLA intelligence operatives also gave NATO fighter pilots the coordinates for Serb infantry and artillery positions.

NATO confirms its raids against Yugoslav ground forces were more effective in the two weeks before Mr. Milosevic sued for peace than at any other time in the conflict. On June 7, three days before the Serb forces started their withdrawal from Kosovo, NATO said several hundred Serb soldiers were believed to have been killed, when U.S. B-52 bombers caught them out in an open plain near Mount Pastrik.

Only weeks before, the KLA started to systematically provide NATO with intelligence, according to KLA fighters. Working with NATO officers in northern Albania, the KLA's general headquarters, led by Chief of Staff Agim Ceku, told the alliance the whereabouts of Serb weaponry and troops, members of the guerrilla army say.

KLA leaders, citing military secrecy, won't elaborate on the specifics of their contacts with officers from NATO member countries. They will confirm that Mr. Ceku, who participated in Croatia's 1995 Operation Storm offensive that drove out Krajina Serbs and helped to end the war in Bosnia, acted as the KLA's main liaison with the alliance.

NATO spokesmen say the KLA and NATO never coordinated their actions, nor even had any formal contacts. But they acknowledge the KLA gave information to officials from individual countries.

Some contacts were quite informal. For example, Uk Lushi, a 28-year-old KLA volunteer who resides in the U.S., recalls sharing beers with three uniformed U.S. soldiers posted in northern Albania near the Kosovo border.


In supplying intelligence to NATO, the KLA was aided by a network of fighters and informers inside Kosovo. Faton Mehmetai, a 35-year-old former journalist, headed the intelligence effort for Ramush Haradinaj, commander of the KLA for the Dukagjin region of southern Kosovo.

Mr. Mehmetai says the KLA started giving NATO information on May 10 at the alliance's request. Cobbling together information from reconnaissance units in the field, Mr. Mehmetai compiled the reports while Fitnete Ramosai, a female KLA recruit and fellow ex-journalist, phoned in the coordinates via satellite phone to the KLA's central command in northern Albania.

Leafing through a school notebook scrawled with daily intelligence reports and hand-drawn maps, he cites examples of some of the reports that helped NATO out. On May 28, he says, the KLA told NATO that Serbs were holding tanks, artillery and bulletproof vehicles from its Pec barracks in a pump factory in Decani. NATO bombed the factory three days later. Also in May, civilians tipped off the KLA about a Serb tank and artillery emplacement in a mountain canyon near the village of Zagremlje. The KLA's own reconnaissance units confirmed the report and passed it on to NATO, who Mr. Mehmetai says bombed the position June 1.

A senior official at NATO, who asked not to be named, says the KLA stayed in close touch with certain member nations, principally the U.S., whose planes flew the bulk of the missions over Yugoslavia. This official confirms that rebels would call in by cellular telephone the positions of Serb troops and their movements.

"It was in their interest to do so and in NATO's interest to know," he says.

"We said, 'OK, if you want to give it to us, we'll hand it over to some nation for strategic planning.'"


However, NATO officials don't consider Operation Arrow a military success for the KLA. The rebels suffered heavy losses and didn't come close to opening a corridor, officials at the alliance believe. But Mr. Lushi says only 17 KLA fighters were killed and another 23 injured during Operation Arrow, compared with several hundred Serb soldiers believed killed by NATO bombs and KLA assaults in the last days of the war, according to KLA figures which can't be independently confirmed.

Another point of controversy relates to exactly why Mr. Milosevic gave up.

NATO argues the KLA's role in pushing the Yugoslav president to the negotiating table was minimal, and play down their military role. NATO officials, who now acknowledge the bombings destroyed fewer Serb tanks and armored vehicles than they claimed during the conflict, cite the diplomatic pressures put on Belgrade by the West and Russia as having forced the Serb leader's hand. The alliance's ability to turn the lights out in Belgrade when NATO hit electric power plants is "what really counted," another senior NATO official said.

"That's when we brought the war home to Milosevic," this official adds.

"The KLA also played a role, if not a determining one."

Fighters in the guerrilla army, the only fighters other than Serb forces to have observed the war from the ground, give Operation Arrow more due.

With the KLA pushing into western Kosovo in the last days of the war, NATO's bombing campaign took 11 weeks in all. No one in the KLA suggests that the world's most powerful military alliance would have vanquished Mr.

Milosevic's military and police forces sooner or later.

But without the KLA's help, it might have taken twice that time to bring the war to an end, says Mr. Haradinaj, the commander in southern Kosovo.

"NATO could have won this war without us," he says, straddling a chair in a KLA barracks on the site of an abandoned Serb housing development in Baballoq, western Kosovo. "But it was our war in the first place," he adds. "We had to fight."


While alliance members play down the KLA's military role, they say that good ties with the rebel army, which claims to have 20,000 members, were greatly strengthened during the conflict. NATO officials say the U.S., which originally cultivated KLA leaders during the failed peace talks in Rambouillet, France, told its European allies to allow the KLA -- along with British officers in KFOR, the Kosovo peacekeeping force -- to handle negotiations for June's landmark agreement to demilitarize the rebel force.

Some diplomats grumble that the U.S.'s close ties with the KLA softened its treatment of the KLA. These diplomats say that the agreement, which allows for some of the rebel force to be transformed into a local militia along the lines of the U.S. National Guard, will leave the KLA with the means to press for independence by force if the United Nations-run administration continues to oppose that goal in the future.

Meanwhile, many KLA fighters feel NATO owes them a debt of gratitude, at very least, for helping turn the tide of the war. "We acted as the ground troops of NATO in the last days," says Lirak Celaj, a public-information officer for the region of Kosovo's capital city of Pristina. "If the KLA hadn't been there, maybe NATO wouldn't be here."

Monday July 26, 1999
Chris Bird


To meet Father N you must negotiate alert German soldiers and coils of razor wire ringing the Serbian Orthodox church of Saint George, in Kosovo's western town of Prizren.

After the massacre of 14 Serb farmers in Gracko on Friday night - the worst violence since the Nato-led peacekeeping force entered Kosovo on June 12 - the middle-aged priest is taking no chances.

German peacekeepers with K-For have also parked a large armoured vehicle next to the 19th century church, the target of several arson attacks by vengeful ethnic Albanians.

The Germans are even billeted in the priests' house next door. The priests are now prisoners in their monasteries and churches across Kosovo.

"It isn't a matter of politics here, it's the law of the jungle. It's anarchy," said Father N. "If something doesn't change, there is no future for us here."

But Father N is not thinking of leaving. Five hundred yards from his church, in the Serbian Orthodox seminary of Kyril and Methodius - named after the Slav saints who devised the Cyrillic alphabet - are 220 Serbs, Roma and ethnic Albanians who fear that to walk the streets of Prizren would be to invite certain death.

The priest called on the German troops to drive him down the road to the seminary. Nervously gathering in his black cassock to climb into the back of a Mercedes jeep, he was accompanied by armed and flak-jacketed soldiers with straggly blonde moustaches.

"I tried to walk down the street the other day but at least 15 people shouted at me and spat and asked me when I was leaving for Belgrade," said Father N.

You can see his point. The streets of the once tolerant and busy multi-ethnic town, which were shockingly empty during the war, are now a riot of red Albanian flags and deafening patriotic songs favoured by the Kosovo Liberation Army, who are dealing out their own very rough justice to Serbs and others suspected of "collaborating" with Belgrade.

More German soldiers blocked the seminary gate. They relaxed when they saw the priest.

Inside the seminary, an elegant building surrounding a flagged courtyard with two large elms at its centre, sat groups of Serbs, ethnic Albanians and Roma, brought together in their fear of retribution. Their quiet Sunday afternoon sojourn was broken repeatedly by the loud drone of patrolling Apache helicopters.

"There are lots of problems. People are beaten up, killed, kidnapped, expelled from their homes, their homes are burned." Father N frowned. "The people who are guilty, they were the first to leave. The second and largest part of Serbs who left, I don't think they were guilty, but from fear of revenge, they felt they had to leave. This is the third group," he said of his mixed and frightened flock. "They are the ones who are not guilty and they suffer the most."

Most of those seeking sanctuary are Serbs and Roma. Father N has repeatedly requested an escort from the German army to accompany the Serbs to Serbia, where many have houses or relatives, but he has been given no answer. For K-For to start escorting Serbs out of Kosovo would be a point-blank admission of defeat in its stated aim to maintain Kosovo as a multi-ethnic territory.

But for many, there is no way out of the seminary.

"I was out in the fields near my village one day and when I returned, 16 people were missing. I saw the whole village burning," said Mirko Stojkovic, 74, from the nearby village of Donjice. Mr Stojkovic's wife Zivka was one of the missing. None of them has been seen since.

"I don't know what to do. I have no children. Perhaps jump in the water," he said blankly.

The paranoia and fear inside the seminary gives the place the air of an asylum, where coal-eyed kids clutch grubby teddy bears with grim determination. "They are on the edge of their nerves, they quarrel, they have started to steal things from each other," said the priest.

For 10 ethnic Albanians inside the seminary, there is none of the cocky jubilation on the noisy streets outside.

Two of them, an 18-year-old ethnic Albanian woman with her child, sat out in the sun in the courtyard to escape the fetid air inside the communal dormitories full of old men and women dozing on white-painted metal beds.

"Her husband was an ethnic Albanian who was in the Yugoslav police force," said the priest. "Five of her husband's relatives killed him in front of her and then they raped her."

July 26 1999


THE slaughter at Gracko has realised some of the international community's worst fears over the new order in Kosovo.

Western diplomats predict the disintegration of the Kosovo Liberation Army into competing factions, some bent on the total "cleansing" of the Serb population and others with sinister links to the mafia gangs of northern Albania.

The Kfor "liberation" of Kosovo has been portrayed as a new beginning, a breath of fresh air for an oppressed people denied their right to self-determination for too long.

But over the past few weeks Western diplomats and observers who witnessed the province's ethnic struggle of the past two years have left, privately admitting to growing doubts over the Kfor's ability to rule with the confused help of a United Nations civilian administration.

Some of them said yesterday that the KLA's denial of all links with the Gracko massacre, made by Hashim Thaci, the self-proclaimed Prime Minister, was nonsense, and merely illustrated that a KLA central command has always been a fallacy. "Was the KLA ever a coherent organisation?" asked one. "You have to remember it was the West that pressured the KLA to come up with a leadership. The reality is that it is a roots-up organisation.

There is no command structure."

Another diplomat said he believed Mr Thaci, 29, had taken on board the West's message that Kosovo has to remain multi-ethnic. He said that despite Mr Thaci's authoritarian leanings and Marxist background, he had realised that for Kosovo to have any chance of independence, the KLA had to become absorbed into a police force that includeed Serbs and which cared for all Kosovans.

Kfor sources in Kosovo have said that Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson, Kfor commander, has developed a new trust in Mr Thaci over the last few days in verifying KLA disarmament.

But pessimists question Mr Thaci's past and his backers.

They say Mr Thaci's family is too closely linked to the KLA's main financier, the shadowy Swiss-based Xhavit Haliti, who is in Kosovo and believed to be in talks with the new special representative, Bernard Kouchner.

"He's a real sleazeball you don't want to get too close to," said one diplomat. "He knows all the dirty alleyways of Albanian society only too well." Even if the Thaci clique wished to bring the Gracko murderers to justice, few believe they are capable of it. If Kosovo allows itself to become consumed again by the blood-feud culture of northern Albania, the killings will not stop with revenge attacks on the few hapless Serb peasants remaining in the central plains. It is an anarchy even some of the KLA's fiercest fighters want to escape.

GRACKO, July 26 1999.


Nato ignored our plea, say grieving villagers Belgrade demands protection for Kosovo serbs

AS WAILING women lamented their dead in the "harvest massacre" of 14 Serbian farmers in Gracko on Friday evening, inhabitants of the impoverished, grief-stricken village claimed yesterday that Nato forces had ignored pleas for help from a frightened community until it was too late.

"A part of the responsibility for this tragedy belongs to Kfor," said one middle-aged Serbian man visiting his bereaved brother, whose son was among the dead in the village ten miles southwest of the provincial capital, Pristina.

"We asked Nato to come here earlier because we feared some action on the part of Albanian Kosovans, but now that they have come it is too late," added the man, who declined to give his name.

He blamed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the Albanian guerrilla group which has been handing over its weapons for storage at Kfor sites as part of the peace settlement. KLA leaders have denied having had any part in the massacre and have condemned it.

Even as Nato continued its investigation into the deaths, which have been condemned in Serbia itself, more Serbs in Pristina and elsewhere were packing their bags and leaving, joining a huge exodus that has already severely depleted the Serbian population here, just as the Albanian population was earlier decimated until the arrival of Nato forces gave them the courage to return.

Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson, the British commander of Kfor troops, has said that no stone will be left unturned until the killers are brought to justice.

Observers say that Nato's credibility as an honest broker between Albanians and Serbs in this war-shattered province is in the balance until the murders are solved and the culprits apprehended.

"It is a mark of the international community's determination as a whole to pursue the murderers of these 14 people whoever they are and wherever they may be," General Jackson said at a press conference here yesterday.

"The investigation into the killings of these people who were peacefully harvesting hay is ongoing and we will put all the resources we can into it," he added.

After the press conference, General Jackson pursued a Yugoslav journalist from Tanjug, the Yugoslav press agency. She had asked Dr Bernard Kouchner, the recently appointed special representative of the UN Secretary-General, whether the bodies had been mutilated after death by vehicles being driven over them.

"They were absolutely not mutilated," Sir Michael emphasised to the woman from Tanjug. "They were shot dead."

However, inhabitants of Gracko told The Times last night that vehicles had been driven over the corpses of the 14 - 13 of whom had been killed beside a combine harvester at 9.30pm last Friday, and a fourteenth who had been shot dead on his tractor.

"We will show you the bodies before we bury them tomorrow if you don't believe that they had been mutilated," said a Serbian villager, who asked not to be identified. In the background, women shrieked out in sorrow as Serbian friends and relatives - no doubt driving here at their peril - arrived with wreaths of flowers.

Corporal Steve Baker, 33, of Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, a member of the Royal Gloucester, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment now guarding and patrolling the stricken village, said that he thought Gracko had been hit because it had previously "not been touched".

"The Serbs who live here are very upset, but they do not hold it against us," Corporal Baker said. "They know we had nothing to do with it."

Early yesterday evening, helicopters banked over the fields of half-harvested hay in the warm sunlight as British troops stepped up their search of vehicles on main roads in the area.

Serbs resident in Pristina were packing their belongings into cars and leaving without saying goodbye to Albanian neighbours, according to Albanian residents there. "Three Serb families close to my home have already left since yesterday," said one Albanian-Kosovan woman. "They did not say anything, but they are clearly terrified."

Kfor is anxious to prevent any further decline in the Serb population here. Tens of thousands have already fled, fearing Albanian vengeance since Kfor troops entered the province in force last month.

Judge Louise Arbour, prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, said it would investigate the killings and was offering forensic science help.

The 14 bodies are to be buried today in Serbian Orthodox ceremonies in what is likely to be a highly charged series of funerals.

Belgrade demands protection for Kosovo serbs

Belgrade: Yugoslavia has asked for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after the massacre of 14 Serb farmers (Eve-Ann Prentice writes).

Vladislav Jovanovic, head of the Yugoslav mission to the UN, made the request and appealed for "urgent and concrete measures" to protect Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo.

President Milosevic has called on the UN to allow some Yugoslav soldiers and police to return to the province, as envisaged under the deal that ended the Nato bombing campaign.

In a statement issued by the Tanjug news agency, Mr Milosevic said that the international peacekeeping force, Kfor, and the United Nations mission in Kosovo had "full responsibility" for the massacre.

"All verbal condemn-ations of the crimes are unacceptable to the citizens of Yugoslavia," he said. "Kfor's deliberately tolerant stand towards bands of murderers and their unhindered infiltration over the border are equal to co-operation with bandit groups which terrorise the civilian population."

Vuk Draskovic, one of Serbia's opposition leaders, accused the West of propping up the Milosevic regime by failing to protect Serbs in Kosovo. He was addressing a crowd of 20,000 in Nis.

Lieutenant-General Sir Michael Jackson denied that the farmers were refused protection, saying it was to have been provided the next day, but the farmers went out to harvest a day earlier than planned.

July 29, 1999
Chris Bird


Serbs from the village of Gracko buried their 14 massacred farmers yesterday, seeing little hope for their future in Kosovo despite a series of local arrests by British military police at dawn.

Lieutenant Colonel Robin Hodges, spokesman for the British army, which controls the central sector of Kosovo, said 10 suspects were held in raids on a house in Gracko and three houses nearby. A further six people were stopped in a car nearby.

"The raids were carried out at 5am and the suspects were in the British detention centre at 8am," he said. "Some weapons were found at the sites, but there was no violence." He would not be drawn on the ethnic identity of the suspects.

The 14 Serbs were killed in cold blood by a short but heavy burst of automatic fire, according to the British army, which is heading the investigation. Soldiers found 13 of them beside a combine harvester, the 14th slumped on his tractor.

The massacre was the worst so far under K-For's rule, putting in doubt its ability to protect the lives and property of Kosovo's ethnic minorities.

To the few hundred Serbs who have not quit Kosovo the arrests made little difference. They fear that they too will end up in coffins like those unloaded from white aid-agency trucks after autopsies in Pristina and laid out on a basketball court in the centre of the village green.

"It's sad, but this is what will happen to all of us," said Slobodanka Denic, 54, watching the funeral from the shade of a tree on the edge of the green. She is a refugee from the nearby town of Stimlje. Her children fled to northern Serbia and she has not heard from them since. "They burnt three of our houses. We cannot go back there," she said.

Relatives crowded round the coffins, each with a wooden crucifix propped up at the front with the victim's name, his photograph, and flowers. Women moaned in grief as Serbian Orthodox priests said prayers and swung incense.

"Why did this happen?" one woman cried over and over again.

British soldiers patrolled at a discreet distance. One scanned the area from the top of an armoured vehicle through the telescopic rifle sights.

Their presence provoked mixed feelings. Cluster bombs dropped by Nato planes during the war have left dozens of craters in the village green, and the houses on one side are scarred by shrapnel. But in recent days the 80 Serb families here have opened up to the British troops, knowing that they are all that stand between them and another massacre.

The few Serb leaders still in Kosovo were combative yesterday, accusing K-For of failing in their task of protecting ethnic minorities.

"If this was only an isolated incident the Serbs could cope, but this isn't," said Zoran Andjelkovic, the Belgrade-appointed leader of the province.

Only yesterday morning, he said, 20 Serbs had come to him saying they had been forcibly expelled from their flats in Pristina. Two Serb youths had been killed on the road to the northern town of Vucitrn when shopping for food.

The army has refused to say who, or which group, is most likely to have been responsible for the massacre. Some people believe the ruthless and professional nature of the killing - the villagers' habits and territory had clearly been studied - point to a trained unit of ethnic Albanian guerrillas from the Kosovo Liberation Army.

While the KLA has publicly condemned the killings, its branch organisations are directing the campaign of terror to try to push the Serbs out of Kosovo, K-For sources say.

"I think we were fed a bad line about the KLA," a British soldier said. "They are terrorists and we won their war for them. It's not only Serbs but ethnic Albanians as well that are scared of them."

Radomir Jankovic, 77, receives regular telephone threats from ethnic Albanians who he says belong to the KLA, telling him to leave Gracko.

He takes a Biblical view of his people's predicament, saying the Serbs are being forced to leave their earthly Eden.