Friday, August 12, 2011

Bühler's homefront

In other to understand general major Bühler's position on Kosovo better it may be good to have some closer look at the German media. The following blogpost appeared in a German defense related blog on 30 juli.

Kosovo: No end to the tension in sight

T.Wiegold 30. Juli 2011 · | 56 Comments

As a precaution we keep keep holding an eye on the situation in Kosovo…

Have the Kosovo Serbs won the power struggle with NATO as DPA reported today? Or has the (German) KFOR-comander general major Erhard Bühler only temporarily declined to remove the blockades as the Tanjug reports from an interview of Bühler with a Kosovo television station?

This may not happen a second time. Next time we have to use violence and everyone should know that, said Bühler here

(I would have loved to link to a situation description at, where it is among others reported that the mission of the ORF-battallion to Kosovo o es unter anderem heisst, dass die Entsendung des ORF-Bataillons in den Kosovo still isn't definitive… Unfortunately the site is down.)

Subscript: Interesting report of the Swiss Depeschen-Agentur (sda) on the employment of Swiss soldiers (Swisscoy). The surprising thing: among the whole 6000 men NATO employment in Kosovo the Swiss have the only two helicopters that can fly at might?!

As can be seen from the 56 comments this evoked a strong discussion. The tendency was that what was already shown in the blog post: criticism of NATO for weakness. It went so far that Bühler felt the need to reply on 2 august at 0:11 in the morning:

I will once try to supply some facts for your discussion. The KFOR-supply convoy consisted of some 15 vehicles, partly tractor trailers, the personal was 50% civilian. It was stopped at a 700m deep staggered blockade that consisted of trucks, tree trunks, building material and mounds of gravel. Around the blockade a mass of some 1500-2000 people had formed. In addition some 200 to 300 radicals that were armed with guns and hand grenades had mixed amonst the protesters, partly on the hills left and right of the convoy. They had fired at least four (untargeted?) shots with automatic weapons. That they don't carry weapons for nothing have thy shown on previous days with attacks on a KFOR-helicopter and a KFOR-company at the Jarinje border crossing. The company had in the fire fight maintained its position against the attackers, but could not prevent that the border station was set on fire with firebombs.

We could introduce from our own forces we could introduce one company from the North and one from South and a treain with EULEX police. More was not available because of the tense situation n the whole North. There was no ultimatum. It was more so that simultaneously with the negotiations we introduced and employed reinforcements.

It was clear to me at the time of the decision that this would expose me to public criticism. This didn't happen by the way in Kosovo while people there know tha such scenarios are not comparable to police situations in Germany. But I felt life and limb of the demonstrating citizens, including women and children, and my soldiers more important than the short term, otherwise very uncertain success of a violent eviction of the roadblock and enforcement of the right to freedom of movement of KFOR. Tactical success - if they might occur at all due to the facts presented - can be strategic, long-term effective defeats. Critical to the long-term success of KFOR, the acceptance by both the ethnic groups - who by the way are no longer hostile in the whole of Kosovo. The population in the north is already far too long a hostage of radical political structures, extremists and criminals that have unfortunately developed in the north because of a much too long time without law and order. In the currently very volatile situation, one may risk not to contribute to the further escalation by inappropriate action. Moreover, my soldiers have evacuated in the past two nights four roadblocks in the north by taking advantage of surprise ....

With kind greetings from Pristina

What misses is the realization that the use of soldiers for police tasks should be exceptional. KFOR should be for events like march 2004. In the present it should have done the absolute minimum: bring the special police back to Southern Mitrovica. Syria is no exception: when soldiers do police work there is always a high risk of deadly victims. Bühler tries to evade the responsibility by stressing that there are armed Serbs present. But doing that he evades the fact that soldiers are not trained for this kind of situations and that with his actions Bühler is putting civilian lives at risk. In addition he violates the neutrality of his force.

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