The Kosovo Liberation Army: Does Clinton Policy Support Group with Terror, Drug Ties
On March 24, 1999, NATO initiated air attacks on Yugoslavia (a federation of two republics, Serbia and Montenegro) in order to impose a peace agreement in the Serbian province of Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority. The Clinton Administration has not formally withdrawn its standing insistence that Belgrade sign the peace agreement, which would entail the deployment in Kosovo of some 28,000 NATO ground troops -- including 4,000 Americans -- to police the settlement. But in recent days the Clinton public line has shifted to a demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic halt the offensive he has launched in Kosovo, which has led to a growing humanitarian crisis in the region, before there can be a stop to the bombing campaign.
One week into the bombing campaign, there is widespread discussion of options for further actions. One option includes forging a closer relationship between the United States and a controversial group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a group which has been cited in unofficial reports for alleged ties to drug cartels and Islamic terrorist organizations. This paper will examine those allegations in the context of the currently unfolding air campaign.
Results of Week One
The air assault is a product of a Clinton policy, which for months has been directed toward intervention in Kosovo, in either the form of the use of air power or of the introduction of a peacekeeping ground force -- or of air power followed by a ground force. [For details on the turbulent history of Kosovo and of the direction of Clinton policy leading to the current air campaign, see: RPC's "Senate to Vote Today on Preventing Funding of Military Operations in Kosovo: Airstrikes Likely This Week," 3/23/99; "Bombing, or Ground Troops -- or Both: Clinton Kosovo Intervention Appears Imminent," 2/22/99; and "Bosnia II: The Clinton Administration Sets Course for NATO Intervention in Kosovo," 8/12/98.] Just hours before the first bombs fell, the Senate voted 58 to 41 (with 38 Republicans voting in the negative) to authorize air and missile strikes against Yugoslavia (S. Con. Res. 21). The Senate then approved by voice vote a second resolution expressing support for members of the U.S. Armed Forces engaged in military operations against Yugoslavia (S. Res. 74).
Prior to the air campaign, the stated goal of Clinton policy, as noted above, was Belgrade's acceptance of the peace agreement signed by the Kosovo Albanian delegation (which included representatives of the KLA) on March 17. Now, more than a week into the air campaign, that goal appears even more elusive as the NATO attack has rallied Serbian resistance to what they see as an unjustified foreign aggression.
Since the NATO bombing campaign began, Serbian security forces also have intensified an offensive in Kosovo that began as the airstrikes appeared inevitable. According to numerous media reports, tens of thousands of Albanians are fleeing the Serb army, and police forces and paramilitary groups that, based on credible allegations, are committing widespread atrocities, including summary executions, burnings of Albanian villages, and assassination of human rights activists and community leaders. Allied officials have denounced the apparently deliberate forced exodus of Albanian civilians as ethnic cleansing and even genocide. But according to some refugee accounts, the NATO bombing is also a factor in the exodus: "[M]ost residents of the provincial capital say they are leaving of their own accord and are not being forced out at gunpoint, as residents of several western cities and villages in Kosovo say has been happening to them. . . . Pristina residents who made it to Macedonia said their city is still largely intact, despite the targeting of ethnic Albanian businesses by Serbian gangs and several direct hits from NATO air strikes in the city center" ["Cause of Kosovar Exodus from Pristina Disputed: Serbs Are Forcing Exit, Some Claim; Others Go on Own," Washington Times, 3/31/99].
At the same time, the Clinton Administration, consistent with its track record on Kosovo, has ignored credible but unconfirmed evidence from sources not connected to Milosevic's Serbian government that the NATO campaign has resulted in far more civilian damage than has been acknowledged.
Making Things Worse?
The Clinton Administration and NATO officials flatly reject any suggestion that their policy has exacerbated an already bad situation on the ground in Kosovo. With neighboring Albania and Macedonia in danger of being destabilized by a flood of refugees, questions are being raised about NATO's ability to continue the campaign unless positive results are evident soon:
"With critics arguing that the NATO campaign has made things worse, the alliance must slow the Serbs' onslaught or watch public support and alliance unity unravel. U.S. and NATO officials angrily rebutted the critics, arguing that Mr. Milosevic, the Serbian leader, and his forces were already on the rampage before NATO strikes began." ["NATO Is Set to Target Sites in Belgrade," Wall Street Journal, 3/29/99]
If the immediate NATO goal has now shifted to stopping the Serb offensive in Kosovo, observers point to three likely options [WSJ, 3/29/99]:
"Option One is to continue the air campaign, increasingly targeting Serb frontline troops [in Kosovo], but it could be days before the onslaught is really slowed." This option, which NATO has already begun to implement, is likely to entail greater risk to NATO aircraft and crews, due to the lower and slower flightpaths needed to deliver tactical strikes. Still, most observers doubt the offensive can be halted with air power alone. Late reports indicate increased bombing of targets in Belgrade, the capital of both the Yugoslav federation and the Serbian republic. (...)