- The Washington Times - Monday, February 28, 2000

When a peacekeeping force fails, throw more men at it. Or at least that seems to be the mindset of NATO Gen. Wesley Clark and the United Nations Kosovo police force (UNMIK). One year after NATO first decided to bomb Kosovo, Mr. Clark is recommending 1,800 to 2,000 new peacekeeping troops be sent to Kosovo following this month's increase in violence in Mitrovica in which several U.S. soldiers were injured, 11 Kosovars were killed and over 1,000 ethnic Albanians were forced to flee this month. The Clinton administration was also pushing for the civilian police force on the ground to be increased this week. Before they increase the size of the disorganized force that is now on the ground 30,000 NATO troops, 7,000 non-NATO troops and 2,327 civilian police officers they might consider asking what the problem with the current force is.
For leaders of world powers to admit to being bested at their game of peacekeeping takes more than a little courage though. "The first point I want to emphasize is that the situation in Kosovo is under control," NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said Friday, assuring NATO's governing council that the situation in Mitrovica was dealt with "quickly and decisively." How this was supposed to erase the images of Serbs stoning GIs, American police officers breaking down Serb's apartment doors and the fleeing ethnic Albanians who have put Mitrovica on the map is anybody's guess.
If this is true, why did Monday's search operation one of NATO's largest in Kosovo with around 2,300 troops end with the Americans and Germans having to withdraw? It may be worth listening to the officers themselves: "We've been getting about the reaction you'd get if you turned up outside someone's door wearing all this," Staff Sgt. John Holmes told The Washington Post, referring to his M-16 rifle, flak jacket and metal helmet. Apparently the fact that peacekeepers' helicopters (now apparently quickly becoming book mobiles for war etiquette pamphlets) dropped leaflets to warn them of the visits didn't help any. Nor did bringing an ethnic Albanian translator with the operation help the troops when they ventured into the Serbian part of town. Sounds like it's not just the Serbs who need a lesson in war etiquette.
The current peacekeeping force, both military and civilian police, need a cohesive, organized strategy that mere numbers won't enhance. Already, 483 of the 2,327 police officers and 5,300 of the 30,000 NATO troops are American officers. But the police force represents 43 different countries in Kosovo and the NATO operation has had 12 different countries working together in Mitrovica alone. Civilian police are expected to increase from 150 to 200 officers per week, coming from anywhere in the world they can get them, according to one U.N. official who preferred to remain anonymous. Is this the way to build a cohesive strategy? To assume that Pakistanis and Ghanans who make up approximately 10 percent of the civilian police are supposed to create a formidable force in a land and with a team so foreign to them is quite bold.
NATO's governing council has decided to wait till next week to respond to Mr. Clark's request for more troops, but already 67 U.S. officers are expected this week to increase the civilian police force, with more to come in the following weeks. For the sake of not repeating last week's embarrassment, the United Nations and NATO would do well to consider efficient training of the force they have, and taking time to evaluate whether the problem lies beyond sheer manpower.

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