WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2011 — A senior U.S. military leader in Europe condemned recent violence against NATO troops in Kosovo just as a Wisconsin Army National Guard unit prepares to take command of the 15th rotation of peacekeeping forces there.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, visited Pristina, Kosovo, today to assess the situation a day after attacks by Serb demonstrators wounded more than two dozen NATO Kosovo Force members. No U.S. troops were wounded in the clashes. The attacks occurred after the KFOR troops removed blockades that had shut off a main road in northern Kosovo.
“The use of violence against KFOR troops is unacceptable,” Locklear said in a statement released today. “We urge all parties to exercise restraint and cooperate fully with all international actors on the ground to ensure freedom of movement without delay.”
Locklear reiterated NATO’s mandate in Kosovo under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244: to help maintain a safe and secure environment. This, he said, includes ensuring freedom of movement.
KFOR entered Kosovo in June 1999 under the U.N. mandate in the face of mounting ethnic conflict between Federal Republic of Yugoslavia military forces and Kosovo Liberation Army members. At the height of the mission, 39 nations were contributing about 50,000 troops to the mission.
About 180 members of the Wisconsin National Guard’s 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade are now preparing to assume authority for the next KFOR rotation in December. They will serve as the brigade headquarters unit for Multinational Battle Group East, also known as Task Force Falcon. In that role, the 157th will oversee operations for the entire Multinational Battle Group East.
The group includes National Guard and Reserve soldiers from Wisconsin, Mississippi, Georgia, Nebraska, Vermont, North Dakota, New Jersey, Wyoming, Massachusetts and Puerto Rico. It also includes international forces from Armenia, Greece, Poland, Turkey, Romania and the Ukraine.
To prepare for the mission, the KFOR 15 troops trained in realistic scenarios at Camp Atterbury, Ind., and most recently, at U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
“It’s a three-pronged mission,” Army Col. Jeffrey Liethen, the KFOR 15 commander, said during training at the Camp Atterbury Joint Training Center in October. “We monitor the pulse of the populace, so to speak, keeping track of the feelings and opinions of the people. We also act as third responders to demonstrations and riots, and maintain freedom of movement for other KFOR forces.”
Observer-controllers at both training sites strived to make the training as realistic as possible, he said, based on tactics, techniques and procedures taking place on the ground.
“Early on in our training, the focus was on a relatively steady state and calm environment in Kosovo,” Liethen said earlier this month at Hohenfels.
“Things have drastically changed,” he said. “It’s very obvious that the training program here at Hohenfels has been modified to replicate what is actually going on in Kosovo right now so that will definitely be a help in us conducting our mission.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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