Thursday, March 15, 2007

KFOR is not prepared for violence

KFOR and international leaders keep repeating that they are ready to quell potential violence in Kosovo.

On februari 10 they could show what they were worth when 3000 demonstrators tried to storm government buildings. Two demonstrators were killed. This resulted in a lot of discussion - mostly in Kosovo - about what went wrong and that way we get some inside view in how security in Kosovo really operates.

Some conclusions:
- Kosovo's police (KPS) was not involved in the preparations and did a poor job. They don't have rubber bullets.
- There is not one water cannon in Kosovo.
- Only the Polish, Rumanian and Ukrainian units possessed riot gear. So none of the members of the Kosovo Contact Group have it.

Although in this case on the police was involved one gets the impression that the internationals in Kosovo are just as badly prepared as in 2004. There is no reason to believe that the soldiers are better prepared.

This somehow confirms my fears. NATO or KFOR spokesmen nearly always stay stuck in generalities when they tell how prepared they are. They only time they get more specific is when they say that KFOR has moved more troops to the north of Kosovo. It makes me wonder what NATO secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer really means when he says "Let nobody in Kosovo have any illusions that they should test KFOR ... That goes for the majority and the minority". Does he mean that KFOR is only prepared for violence from the minority?

My recommendations would be:
- introduce an exam for international policemen. It should contain both basic police skills and UN specific rules. The candidates should also have at least two years of experience as police man. The tests should be in English as the candidates should be fluent in that language.
- Both KFOR soldiers and international policemen should in their first month in Kosovo get an exercise that gives them an experience with violent demonstrations and their control. This should be done in a realistic test-village that the exercise protesters may try to burn down. This should also test the chain of command.
- Put more trust in Kosovo's police. They should be the first line of defense and should be equipped as such.