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Context of '1999: US and British Special Forces Train KLA Operatives in Albania'

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Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs Richard Holbrooke persuades the State Department to license Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, to provide training to the Croatian army. [Ripley, 1999, pp. 81-82, 90; Scotsman, 3/2/2001] According to MPRI information officer Joseph Allred, the firm exists so that “the US can have influence as part of its national strategy on other nations without employing its own army.” [New American, 5/10/1999; Serbian National Federation, 8/1999]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, Military Professional Resources Inc., Richard Holbrooke, Croatian army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Croatian military launches Operation Storm, a massive assault aimed at seizing Krajina, a Serb-populated region located within Croatia’s borders that, a year and a half earlier, had declared itself an independent state. As the Croatian force of 200,000 approaches the city of Knin, Krajina’s 40,000-strong army quickly retreats. Over the next two days, the Croatian army fires some 3,000 shells on Knin. According to two senior Canadian military officers who are present during the attack, the shelling is indiscriminate and targets civilians. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998; New York Times, 3/21/1999; International Review of the Red Cross, 12/31/2000] Col. Andrew Leslie, one of the Canadians, will later say that no more than 250 shells hit military targets, leading him to believe that “the fire was deliberately directed against civilian buildings.” He will also recall seeing corpses of dead Serbians at Knin Hospital “stacked in the corridors… in piles.” [Canada National Post, 4/9/1999] The operation results in a mass exodus of as many as 150,000 Serbian residents, who flee their homes in tractors, cars, and horse-drawn carts. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998; New York Times, 3/21/1999; International Review of the Red Cross, 12/31/2000] This event will be remembered as the largest single instance of ethnic cleansing to have occurred during the Yugoslav war. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998] A 150-page report later issued by an international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, titled “The Indictment. Operation Storm, A Prima Facie Case,” finds that the Croatians were responsible for a number of atrocities. “During the course of the military offensive, the Croatian armed forces and special police committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including but not limited to, shelling of Knin and other cities. During, and in the 100 days following the military offensive, at least 150 Serb civilians were summarily executed, and many hundreds disappeared,” the report will say. “In a widespread and systematic manner, Croatian troops committed murder and other inhumane acts upon and against Croatian Serbs.” [New York Times, 3/21/1999] During the preceding year, Military Professionals Resources, Inc. (MPRI), a private military contractor, had been providing Croatian military officers with training—ostensibly in “Democracy Transition.” After the assault on Krajina, observers will suggest that MPRI’s team of instructors, made up of former US military generals, had actually trained the Croatians in a set of military tactics, known as “AirLand Battle 2000,” which were then used against the Serbs in Krajina. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998] A number of media accounts will even report that MPRI personnel helped plan the Croatian occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Serb-populated region. “Even the Foreign Military Training Report published by both the State Department and Department of Defense in May refers to these allegations against MPRI not entirely disparagingly,” UPI reports. [United Press International, 7/18/2002] There is also evidence that the US provided Croatian President Franjo Tudjman with a green light just a few days before the operation. [New York Review of Books, 10/22/1998] In September 1995, USAF General Charles Boyd, who was Deputy Commander in Chief European Command at the time condemns the Clinton Administration for having “watched approvingly as Muslim offensives began this spring, even though these attacks destroyed a cease-fire Washington has supported. This duplicity, so crude and obvious to all in Europe, has weakened America’s moral authority to provide any kind of effective diplomatic leadership. Worse, because of this, the impact of US actions has been to prolong the conflict while bringing it no closer to resolution.” [Foreign Affairs, 9/1995]

Entity Tags: Military Professional Resources Inc., Andrew Leslie, Franjo Tudjman, Operation Storm, Croatian army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bosnia has so far raised only $200 million for its defense program budget. Half of that amount exists in the form of refurbished US military equipment given to the Bosnians. The other half has been donated by Muslim countries for training and additional weapons systems. Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) of Alexandria, Va. is providing the first year’s training at a cost of $40 million. Richard Perle complains to the APF Reporter that the Clinton administration’s “equip-and-train” program in Bosnia is “too feeble an effort,” and questions the administration’s sincerity. In 1996, the Institute for Defense Analyses estimated that Bosnia would need about $700 million to meet the first stages of its defense program. [APF Reporter, 1997]

Entity Tags: Richard Perle

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

The US and NATO provide the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) with arms and training. [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is an Islamic terrorist organization. [BBC, 6/28/1998] “We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK [KLA] is, without any question, a terrorist group.” [Agence France-Presse, 4/1999] “I know a terrorist when I see one and these men are terrorists,” he says. [BBC, 6/28/1998]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

An annual international Islamic conference in Pakistan formally characterizes the Kosovo Liberation Army’s struggle as a “jihad.” [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

British SAS teams, US Special Forces, and representatives from Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) are actively training KLA fighters at bases in Northern Albania (see Late June-Early July 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 4/18/1999; Herald (Glasgow), 3/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Military Professional Resources Inc., Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The six-nation “Contact Group,” comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, meets in London to discuss a resolution to the Kosovo conflict. At the conclusion of the conference, they issue an ultimatum to the Yugoslavian government and Kosovar Albanians, requiring them to attend peace talks in Rambouillet, France beginning on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). [Press Association (London), 1/29/1999; BBC, 1/30/1999] However, It appears only the KLA is invited to speak on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians, not Ibrahim Rugova—the only democratically elected leader of Kosovo—or any other member of the Kosovo Democratic League. “Western diplomats have described Rugova as increasingly irrelevant, while the key players in Kosovo are now the rebels of the KLA,” the BBC reports. [BBC, 1/31/1999]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, Ibrahim Rugova

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) says it will send representatives to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). Representing the KLA, will be Supreme Commander Hashim Thaci, also known as “The Snake,” and four other Kosovars, all militants. [BBC, 2/3/1999] On Febuary 4, the Yugoslav government (essentially Serbia) agrees to join the peace talks. [US Information Agency, 4/13/1999]

Entity Tags: Hashim Thaci, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

In Rambouillet, France, the Kosovo peace talks are held between the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs under the auspices of the “Contact Group,” which is comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. [Guardian, 2/15/1999; New York Times, 4/1/1999; CNN, 4/6/1999] Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives in Rambouillet during the latter half of the talks and brings both sides together for the first time. The Guardian reports that she has “‘abrupt’ and largely one-sided exchanges with the Serbian president, Milan Milutinovic,” and declares “that the threat of NATO attacks ‘remains real.’” The British, on the other hand, apparently disagree with Albright, believing that the use of force is not necessary. The Russians strongly oppose any military action. [Guardian, 2/15/1999; Guardian, 2/24/1999] Albright also works closely with the Kosovar Albanians, who are being advised by Americans Morton Abramowitz, Marshall Harris, and Paul Williams. [Christian Science Monitor, 2/10/1999] Albright offers the Albanians “incentives intended to show that Washington is a friend of Kosovo,” the New York Times reports. “Officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army would… be sent to the United States for training in transforming themselves from a guerrilla group into a police force or a political entity.” [New York Times, 2/24/1999] Madeleine Albright shakes hands with “freedom fighter” 20-year-old Hashim Thaci, a leader of the KLA [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001] who had previously been labeled a terrorist leader by the US. [Chicago Tribune, 7/11/2004] Toward the end of the conference, the Contact Group provides the two parties with a final draft of the Rambouillet Accords. The Kosovars have a number of issues with the document, especially a provision that would require them to disarm. Another problem is that the proposed accords would not require a referendum on the independence of Kosovo. Notwithstanding these reservations, the Kosovars do not reject the document outright. Rather they say they will accept the agreement after holding “technical consultations” back in Kosovo. The Serbs also refuse to sign the accords because it would give NATO almost complete control of the Yugoslavia. [Guardian, 2/24/1999] Article 8 of Appendix B, titled “Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force,” states: “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.” Article 6 would grant NATO troops operating in Yugoslavia immunity from prosecution, and Article 10 would allow NATO to have cost-free access to all streets, airports, and ports. [Rambouillet Accords: Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, 2/23/1999] As the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung notes, “This passage sounds like a surrender treaty following a war that was lost… The fact that Yugoslavian President Milosevic did not want to sign such a paper is understandable.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/11/2004] With neither party agreeing to sign the accords, the talks end with plans to reconvene on March 15 (see March 15, 1999). [Guardian, 2/24/1999]

Entity Tags: Morton I. Abramowitz, Kosovo Liberation Army, Marshall Harris, Paul Williams, Hashim Thaci, Madeleine Albright, Milan Milutinovic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The Kosovo Liberation Army agrees to the provisions of the Rambouillet Accords proposed during last month’s peace talks in Rambouillet (see February 6-23, 1999). [Guardian, 3/16/1999]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

March 19, 1999: Kosovo Peace Talks Fail

The Kosovo peace talks end in failure with the Yugoslav government refusing to agree to Appendix B of the Rambouillet Accords (see February 6-23, 1999), which would require the Serbs to provide 28,000 NATO troops “unimpeded” access to the country. [Guardian, 3/16/1999]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Complete 911 Timeline, Complete 911 Timeline

NATO launches a bombing campaign on Serbia in an attempt to force Serbian troops to withdraw from Kosovo. Kosovo is part of Serbia, but 90% ethnically Albanian and agitating for autonomy or independence. The air campaign begins just days after the collapse of peace talks (see March 19, 1999). [Washington Post, 9/19/1999] US General Wesley Clark leads the bombing campaign. [BBC, 12/25/2003]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Wesley Clark

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

An unnamed European intelligence agency secretly reports that al-Qaeda has provided financial support for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Documents found on a KLA militant further reveal that he has been smuggling combatants into Kosovo, mostly Saudis with Albanian passports. The report further notes that the KLA is largely financed by drug trafficking, bringing drugs from Afghanistan into Europe with the blessing of the Taliban. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 71-72]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The US State Department temporarily suspends cooperation between the Bosnian army and the US private mercenary company MPRI. No official reason is given, but media reports indicate that the Bosnian Muslims being trained by MPRI were caught sending weapons to Muslim rebels in the regions of Kosovo and Sandzak in Serbia. Supposedly, millions of dollars of weapons were smuggled to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo. [BBC, 4/5/1999; Progressive, 8/1/1999; Center for Public Integrity, 10/28/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Bosnian army, Kosovo Liberation Army, Military Professional Resources Inc.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

The US-led NATO alliance begins bombing Serbia in March, pressuring it to withdraw from Kosovo, which is part of Serbia but ethnically dominated by Albanians (see March 24, 1999). During the war, the US publicly denies working with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the dominant political group in Kosovo. However, it will later be revealed that the CIA works closely with the KLA, starting at least from late April 1999. At that time, the CIA and US Special Forces troops begin working with the KLA to defeat the Serbians. The KLA passes on useful information about Serbian positions, allowing NATO forces to bomb them. But since the KLA has a reputation for drug running, civilian atrocities, and links to al-Qaeda, the US military generally uses the Albanian army as an intermediary. KLA representatives meet daily with Albanian military officers in Albania, but CIA and US Army officers are usually present as well. In addition, there is a secret NATO operations center in the town of Kukes, Albania, near the border with Kosovo. Most of the KLA liaison work takes place there. US officials begin considering using the KLA as a light-infantry force if NATO needs to invade Kosovo with ground troops. But the war ends in June 1999 before that becomes necessary (see June 9, 1999). [Washington Post, 9/19/1999] The same month that the CIA begins working closely with the KLA, a European intelligence report indicates the KLA is being funded by al-Qaeda and drugs from Afghanistan (see April 1999).

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, US Special Forces, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

On June 9, 1999, NATO has been bombing Serbia for 78 days (see March 24, 1999). Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic capitulates, agreeing to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo. Kosovo technically remains part of Serbia (which is still called Yugoslavia) but it is essentially taken over by NATO. Within months, nearly 50,000 NATO peacekeeping troops occupy Kosovo, and the United Nations takes over its administration. [Washington Post, 9/19/1999]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Slobodan Milosevic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

At the end of June, the KLA had captured the Macedonian town of Aracinovo on the outskirts of Kopje. However, within a few days 500 KLA fighters are surrounded by the Macedonian military and elite police units, cut off from re-supply and hopelessly outnumbered. The Macedonian forces are closing in and could easily capture or kill the entire KLA force there, except NATO intervenes. NATO brokers a deal with the Macedonians, under the threat of extreme economic sanctions, under which NATO would oversee the demilitarization of Aracinovo and transport the captured KLA members to internment camps in Kosovo. US troops then enter Aracinovo with 15 buses to evacuate the trapped KLA fighters. They are escorted safely away from the surrounding Macedonian forces, and then, contrary to the agreement, the KLA members are released to rejoin other KLA forces and fight again. The American forces involved in the rescue include 16 members of MPRI (see August 1994) (see 1999), who had been assisting and training the KLA forces. [Taylor, 2002, pp. 120-121]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, United States

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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