US boots on the ground amid enduring tensions: Kosovo

A 500-strong unit made up of contingents from Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, California and New York, is scheduled to arrive to arrive in Kosovo on July 19 for a nine-month deployment.
U.S. Marines from the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion pass flags of the NATO nations and messages of thanks painted on the retaining wall of a road in a village in Kosovo on July 5, 1999. | J. Shell, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)  

According to sources, the battalion-size unit is joining the NATO force in Kosovo.

This peacekeeping mission has been the longest in NATO history, since it has been 18 years to the end of the war and has taken on renewed significance in recent months after a series of spats between Kosovo and Serbia.

Sources claimed that the NATO commanders’ major role is to enable unobstructed political dialogue between the two rival communities.

According to Col. Michael Spraggins, commanding officer of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Arkansas National Guard, “NATO’s mission in Kosovo is to ensure a safe and secure environment and allow freedom of movement for the people of Kosovo. He added that “Ensuring safety and security is important for the continuation of peaceful progress of Kosovo’s political processes.”

 Sources pointed out that this will be the 23rd rotation of US forces since 1999 in what is locally known as the “almost-forgotten mission.”

Following Kosovo’s elections in June in which Albanian nationalist parties made significant gains, tensions rose again. Meanwhile, a Serbian political party loyal to Belgrade won a majority of votes among the Serb minority.

For the first time in a decade, active-duty soldiers were deploy to the small Balkan nation of Kosovo as the American contribution to the long-running NATO peacekeeping mission in 2013.