NATO general: Troops will stay in Kosovo as long as needed

AP News
Posted: Feb 21, 2017 11:17 AM
NATO general: Troops will stay in Kosovo as long as needed

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A senior NATO commander has assured Kosovo that the military alliance will maintain troops in the Balkan country "for as long as it's necessary."

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, met with local officials and Western ambassadors during a visit Tuesday to Kosovo.

Some 4,500 troops from 31 countries have been deployed in Kosovo since June 1999, after NATO's 78-day air campaign to stop a bloody Serbian crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has not recognized it as a country.

"We will keep in place a flexible, determined presence and will make changes only when the security situation allows. KFOR remain a robust and credible force, capable of carrying out its mission for as long as it's necessary," Scaparrotti said.

He also expressed concern about Russia's attempted influence in the region "particularly in the media with disinformation, political influence, etc."

Earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also visited Kosovo to urge it and Serbia to normalize their ties. Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have been building again after a series of inflammatory incidents.

Serbia, backed by Russia, has also sought to maintain influence in Kosovo's north, where most of the country's Serb minority lives.