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Thursday, October 11, 2012

NATO CHIEF SAYS TROOP NUMBERS WILL NOT CHANGE IN KOSOVO

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, left, speaks with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, right, before a conference of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Oct. 10, 2012. Panetta is scheduled to meet with several defense ministers during the two-day event. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo


FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Troop Numbers to Remain Stable for Kosovo, Rasmussen Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2012 - NATO has no plans to reduce its Kosovo Force, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels today.

About 1,650 troops, including around 760 Americans, serve in the Kosovo Force, known as KFOR. Alliance defense ministers discussed the situation in the country during their meeting this week and will not make any changes in the make-up of the force, Rasmussen told reporters as the NATO defense ministers conference wrapped up.

"We agreed that KFOR continues to play an indispensable role in Kosovo," he said. "And ministers made clear that they remain committed to sustaining that role."

The ministers agreed that the security situation and freedom of movement have improved in Kosovo over the last six months, "but that we must remain vigilant and strong," he said.

NATO ministers welcome renewed contacts between Serbian and Kosovar officials, and NATO nations are fully committed to furthering that dialogue, the secretary general noted. "All need to live up to their responsibilities and move the whole region forward," he said.

NATO has no plans to reduce the troop presence in Kosovo, Rasmussen said. "We have the ambition to gradually reduce our troop presence in Kosovo as the security situation, hopefully, continues to improve," Rasmussen said. "But because of the volatile situation we have witnessed during the recent year, we have postponed the decision to reduce the number of troops."

The secretary general reiterated that what happens in Kosovo will be dictated by the security situation on the ground. "We will not take any step that can deteriorate the security situation in Kosovo," he said. "We will stay committed to fully implementing the United Nations Security Council's mandate to ensure a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo."

Military commanders may change where troops are deployed in the country, Rasmussen said. "You will see some rebalancing in the coming months with a stronger focus on the north of Kosovo, taking into account the situation we have witnessed there," he said.