Op-ed by Kosovo Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli.
Like any sovereign, independent country, Kosovo requires an army to protect its territorial integrity and the citizens of all its communities. That is why we are beginning the process of transforming the mandate of the Kosovo Security Force (KSF). This will consist of the disciplined and transparent transition of the KSF into a professional, multi-ethnic, Nato-interoperable army.
The present KSF is a lightly armed, 2,500-strong force trained by Nato and tasked with crisis response, civil protection and ordinance disposal. The draft laws, voted on in our parliament last week, envisage an army of 5,000 active soldiers and 3,000 reservists. In sum, this constitutes a logical and natural conclusion of Kosovo’s security-apparatus development.
It is a necessary step for Kosovo to take, both as a self-sufficient nation state, and as a member of the international community. The transformation of the KSF symbolises Kosovo’s status as an independent country, a status that 116 United Nations member states have confirmed, together with 82 percent of EU member states and 86 percent of Nato member states.
Why are we pressing ahead with this now? The better question is, why not now? There is no time like the present when it comes to protecting your people. Needless to say, the most important issue on our foreign policy agenda concerns our ongoing dialogue with Serbia. However, Kosovo’s development, the security of its people, and the stability of the wider region, cannot be held hostage by this issue. Presently, our project is supported by several key Nato members including the United States.
But it is important to make the case to the wider international community, because there are still misconceptions about the intent of our project. The overarching logic is that an established and transformed KSF will be a factor of domestic reassurance for Kosovo and of stability in an unstable region. Moreover, the status quo of our national security arrangement is not sustainable, and KSF’s role will be crucial in order to protect all the Kosovar people with increased professionalism and a rigorously even-handed military mind-set. Most importantly, our ambition is to create a truly inclusive army, irrespective of ethnicity, that will peacefully strengthen Kosovar identity and nationhood and be a stepping stone to overcome regional fragmentation.
The transition of the KSF will include and represent all living in Kosovo. The KSF will of course be crucial to uphold Kosovo’s sovereignty, in full coordination with the defence capabilities of its neighbours. This will enable Kosovo to contribute to regional and international security, both in the short and long term, through participation in multilateral peace-keeping operations and in enhanced collective security arrangements.
It is part of Kosovo’s strategic goal to soon become a Nato member like its neighbours Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia. As part of our commitments as an equal and full member of the international community, we want to be a country that is not only a security-consumer, but a trusted security-provider. As such it is also an important and necessary step for our allies.
By enhancing current KSF capabilities and experience, through personnel training and equipment modernisation, we are seeking to foster Kosovo’s security cooperation with its neighbours, the EU and the US in tackling international security challenges. Next year, we will be commemorating twenty years since the launch of the Nato air strikes, on March 24th June 1999, which ended the ethnic-cleansing of the Kosovo Albanians by the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.
We will forever be grateful to the Nato-led Kosovo Force that has brought our young country stability and security, and trained our emerging security forces, for the past two decades. But as the saying goes, one repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil. Kosovo owes it to both its own people and the international community to take this step.
I am calling all Nato members to follow the example of the United States in supporting us.