April 14, 2000US troops seize Kosovo weapons
WASHINGTON (AP) -- American peacekeeping troops today launched a surprise raid near the town of Kacanik in southeastern Kosovo, seizing a variety of illegally held land mines, U.S. military officials said.
Details of the operation were sketchy, but a brief statement from Camp Bondsteel, headquarters for the U.S. peacekeeping force in Kosovo, said the raid was launched in the early morning hours by air assault troops of the 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry. There was no immediate word on whether the land mines were held by Serbs or ethnic Albanians, or whether anyone was detained in connection with the raid.
Officials said the operation, termed a "cordon and search," was continuing and that more details would be released when it was completed.
On Thursday, U.S. officials said NATO has decided against expanding the size of its peacekeeping force in Kosovo but has asked member countries for about 3,500 troops to fill existing and anticipated gaps in the force.
After analyzing whether the peacekeeping force known as the Kosovo Force, or KFOR, was sized properly for the mission, 10 months after it began, NATO authorities affirmed that the current number of 39,000 troops was about right, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Thursday. That includes about 5,900 American troops.
There had been speculation that NATO might add more forces because of recent episodes of ethnic violence in the French-controlled sector of Kosovo and trouble with bands of ethnic Albanian rebels in the Presevo Valley in southern Yugoslavia, which borders the American-patrolled sector of Kosovo.
Instead NATO decided that it can manage so long as current and coming gaps are filled, Bacon said. The NATO analysis said a Canadian and a Dutch battalion that are about to leave Kosovo should be replaced, and a French and an Italian battalion that are in Kosovo on temporary duty also need to be replaced.
NATO also concluded that a "swing battalion" that was supposed to be in Kosovo as a reserve force -- but which never was deployed -- should be filled, he said.
The size of a battalion varies by nation but is generally in the vicinity of 700 soldiers.
Thus, NATO has asked member countries to provide five battalions, or approximately 3,500 troops, although the only battalion that would add to the total of troops in Kosovo would be the "swing battalion."
Letters were sent this week to NATO capitals asking for contributions to fill the five battalions. He said it was "highly unlikely" the United States would contribute, since none of the battalions are earmarked for deployment in the U.S.-controlled sector of southeastern Kosovo.
Independent of the NATO study on troop requirements, the United States announced two weeks ago that it intends to send an extra 125 infantry soldiers to conduct long-range reconnaissance in the Presevo Valley area, as well as 14 tanks and six Paladin artillery systems.
Bacon said the reconnaissance company would arrive by the end of April and the tanks and artillery would arrive at Camp Able Sentry, in nearby Skopje, Macedonia, in the next few days.