NATO to cut troop levels in Kosovo | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.06.2009
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NATO to cut troop levels in Kosovo

NATO defence ministers agreed on Thursday to cut its peacekeeping force in Kosovo to 10,000 from 14,000 as part of a plan that could see the alliance's strength reduced to little more than 2,000 over two years.

German troops in Kosovo

Around 2,200 German peacekeepers are part of the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the troops would cede their front-line security role to local forces, backed by a European Union mission.

NATO forces were sent to Kosovo under a United Nations mandate in 1999 to stop the ethnic fighting between Serbs and separatist Albanians.

"Ministers decided Thursday that the political and security conditions are right for a move towards a gradual adjustment of KFOR's force posture," de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.

"Instability and violence is steadily being replaced with security and growing prosperity," he said. "I'm not saying we're there yet, because we're not yet there. More has to be done. But I think we are on the right track."

Germany has some 2,200 troops stationed in Kosovo. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said the growing efficiency of the EU's police mission and the strengthening of Kosovo's Security Force meant that there could be "a transition to the concept of a deterrent presence," and would allow local forces to take more responsibility.

Success story

Denmark's Defence Minister Soren Gade called the stabilization of Kosovo a "success story" but stressed that "even though there will be a reduction of troops, there will still be a NATO presence there."

The decision to scale back KFOR comes as NATO is preparing to move its forces to Afghanistan, to battle the Taliban-led insurgency. But de Hoop Scheffer insisted that there was "no direct link" between the two operations.

Last year, Kosovo's Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia. The move was recognized by around 60 countries including the United States and 22 of the 27 EU nations. However, it was rejected by Serbia and its historic ally Russia.

nrt/dpa/Reuters/AFP

Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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