I am very pleased to have this opportunity to update you on the Kosovo, and the important contribution made to our mission by the Multinational Specialised Unit - we call it the MSU - which contains a great contingent of your Arma dei Carabinieri. They play a key part in helping us to achieve the mission of the Kosovo Force - the K-FOR which I have the honour to command. The core of our KFOR mission is to provide a ‘safe and secure environment’ in Kosovo.
2. Kosovo and KFOR
The Kosovo is about the size of the Italian region of Veneto. Some 2.000.000 people live in the province, 88% Kosovo-Albaniens, 7% Kosovo-Serbs and 5% others. The average age is 23 years, an average family has 6 persons and the average income is 200 euro. You will recall the inhuman ethnic cleansing which took place in Kosovo five years ago. This was followed by the NATO bombing campaign which prompted some days of looting and lawlessness. In June 1999 the Serbian authorities agreed with NATO that they would withdraw from Kosovo, and the KFOR moved in the province, took over control and started to establish a secure and safe environment. On the basis of UN Security Resolution 1244 an international civil presence in Kosovo was established in order to provide ad interim administration, while establishing and overseeing the development of provisional democratic self-governing institutions.
The first priorities were for the UN to establish its Mission - an administration we know as UNMIK - to act as a government while NATO soldiers re-established law and order. Together, NATO forces, and UNMIK, with a large number of Non Government Organisations (the ‘NGOs’) organised the supply of food, water, sanitation, power, shelter, and health care. Very early on, UNMIK began to establish a new Police Force for Kosovo, and invited large numbers of civilian policemen from many nations, but the problem of law and order was immediate - and UNMIK initiatives would take time to implement. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe, favoured the idea of deploying paramilitary police because conventional military forces are not generally trained to face public disorder and criminality, and the UN Police would take time to arrive. Paramilitary forces, trained to act as both policemen and soldiers, offer a range of skills and equipment, and an organisation which could support the NATO brigades and battalions in the varied challenges they faced in Kosovo.
Both Italy and France contributed forces to the Multinational Specialised Unit from the Arma dei Carabinieri and the Gendarmes. As the international police arrived in force a modus operandi was agreed whereby the internationals in the UNMIK-Police provided local policing, and the KFOR MSU took on large, province-wide tasks. Today, KFOR has nearly completed five years in Kosovo, and still retains the MSU Regiment under command of COM KFOR. The problems of rebuilding this ‘collapsed province’ have evolved, but there are still many challenges.
Only recently the MSU Regiment, in the meantime reinforced by Estonian Special Police, proved its outstanding skills when dealing with the riots on 17 and 18 March. As COM KFOR’s reserve being employed to the hot spots like Mitrovica and Gracanica they contributed decisively to the success of this challenging operation. There are still around 3500 international policemen in Kosovo. The Kosovo Police Service is now just over 6000 strong. This force is gaining experience, but is only four years old, and still needs assistance in tackling some of the greater law and order challenges. For these reasons, it makes sense to retain forces who are able to carry out tasks which require more than civil police skills, but which are not suited to soldiers. Thus we still have lots of tasks for the Carabinieri and the Gendarmes in the KFOR MSU. I will now try to give you an idea of what troops we have in the MSU and what they contribute to the safe and secure environment.
3. The Troops in the MSU
The MSU can be described as a specialised asset for the management of law enforcement and crowd control. It generally operates in order to prevent trouble: patrols provide a presence on the ground and gain the information essential for the direction of any crowd control activity. The force therefore has a role at the centre of a Peace Support Operation. The head of the MSU acts as COM KFOR’s adviser regarding matters of security and public order. He commands this regiment sized grouping of the MSU. The MSU is able to act Kosovo-wide and can support itself without needing logistic assistance from the regional brigades. The MSU Headquarters, although it looks like a military headquarters and performs military planning, and command and control functions, contains some specialist police elements. These give it the essential capabilities against criminal, terrorist and extremist activity, and for more general law enforcement. The Headquarters is essentially manned by the Carabinieri and French Gendarmes.
4. The main striking force elements are the deployable companies in the MSU Battalion.
The individual carabinieri and gendarmes are well armed with a range of modern personal infantry weapons and communications equipment. These people have high skill levels: both the Italian and French elements are trained to support their most specialist national police elements and to take on the most challenging tasks, including mentally deranged and violent criminals. These troops, from Italy, France and Estonia have trained together and achieved an impressive degree of interoperability. I mentioned that the capabilities of the MSU enable it to operate against criminal activity, terrorism and extremist activity as well as more general law enforcement. The MSU has been deployed, as already mentioned, against some civil disorder situations in Kosovo, including in the ethnically-divided town of Mitrovica. More of its time, however, is spent in cordon and search operations, patrolling, and operations against organised crime, like the trafficking of migrants and prostitution, and the smuggling of drugs, weapons and explosives.
Last month, in February, the MSU mounted over 850 patrols for various purposes as well as doing escort and search tasks.
5. What the MSU gives COM KFOR
To summarise, I would say that Kosovo, a province with many problems, is being rebuilt as a team effort by many nations under the NATO and UN banners. Most of the problems being encountered are complex, and cannot be solved by a single agency working on its own. This is no less true in the area of security. In a Peace Support Mission there is a balance to be struck between the reassurance of the local population, some of whom are not happy with their neighbours, and deterrence against extremism and its companion, organised crime. NATO troops in KFOR are not generally trained, equipped and organised to deal with either civil disorder or organised crime.
The UNMIK international police and the new Kosovo Police Service are neither equipped, trained nor experienced in meeting civil disorder, nor in coordinating operations across an area the size of Kosovo. The answer is to have a paramilitary force. I am fortunate to have the MSU who have the skills of both policemen and light infantry, and individuals of exceptional training, experience and motivation. The Carabinieri and Gendarmes, together with their Estonian colleagues, are well able to meet these complex challenges, and we are very grateful to them, and to the governments who have provided them, for their help. Your troops are true to their motto: Semper Fidelis.
(*) - General, Commander of KFOR.