What Kosovo needs is a real police force

NATO plea: U.N. authority must fill vacuum to protect Serbs, disarm population, restore civility.

June 29, 1999

THE NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, now up to half-strength, is doing the best it can. But it faces daunting police problems for which its members are not trained.

The NATO commander in Europe, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, pleaded Friday for rapid creation of a United Nations police force. As he did, rogue Albanians were looting and pillaging Serbs and Gypsies.

Plans call for creation of an armed U.N. police force of 1,000, for which a prototype exists in Bosnia. France had been planning to send gendarmes, or national police, who are better trained than soldiers for this phase of operations.

The dispatch of 3,600 Russian troops, despite the cagey competition between Russia and NATO, should be helpful and reassuring to Serbs.

The demilitarization of the Kosovo Liberation Army is going mostly on schedule. Yugoslavia has withdrawn more troops from Kosovo than NATO ever knew were there, though the danger of armed militia remaining behind is real.

The 610th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo and death of Prince Lazar, symbols exploited by modern Serbian nationalism, passed with peaceful observance in Serbian Orthodox shrines. Church leaders are quick to blame Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the national disaster, as they had been slow to condemn the atrocities carried out in the name of their nationalism.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan promised to name a U.N. civil administrator for Kosovo by the end of this week. The sooner the better.

U.S. leadership of operations has given way to British leadership of peacekeeping. The U.N. must now replace NATO as the international authority, to deny anarchy a vacuum in which to grow.

In the meantime, peacekeeping troops must be fair but determined in suppressing Serbian and Albanian troublemakers, protecting all people. Never was administrative competence on the part of the United Nations more urgent.

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