Discord between nations disrupts peacekeepingBy Tim Butcher
Wednesday 23 February 2000
The success of Nato operations such as that in Kosovo will be endangered unless member states iron out differences in approach between their armed forces, a senior British officer said yesterday.
The comments followed rifts between Nato forces in the Kosovo flashpoint of Mitrovica. The officer said the different approaches of armies created a danger that alliance peacekeepers would lose control of a future crisis in Mitrovica or elsewhere in Kosovo.
There was clear British frustration at the tactics used by French soldiers, who have responsibility for the divided town. In one incident, members of the Royal Green Jackets were doubled-up in pain after inhaling tear gas fired by French troops.
The officer said: "Unless we iron out these sorts of differences, future joint operations by a coalition of forces from different countries will be seriously undermined." The comments came after Nato peacekeepers from a dozen nations were ordered to prevent clashes in Mitrovica.
American troops with limited experience of dealing with civil unrest were sent into the northern sector but were driven out by stone-throwing Serb youths. The lasting image was of terrified GIs cocking grenade-launchers because they did not know how to deal with stone throwers.
And when a large crowd of ethnic Albanians gathered in the centre of the town, French troops appeared to fire tear gas even though they were not under threat. The Mitrovica situation has developed largely because of the tactics used by the French since they arrived in the area last summer as part of Nato's Kfor.
Ethnic Albanians accused them of ignoring continued ethnic cleansing in the northern sector as the Serbs sought to drive out the remaining Albanian Kosovars. It echoes pro-Serb bias displayed by the French throughout the war in Bosnia. That culminated in embarrassing arrests when a French officers were accused of spying for the Serbs.
There were also reports that the French United Nations commander in the former Yugoslavia made a deal with the Bosnian Serbs in the summer of 1995, ruling out Nato air strikes in exchange for the release of UN peacekeepers taken hostage by the Serbs.