NATO has moved reserve troops to Kosovo for training, increasing the Alliance’s presence in the breakaway province by as much as 1,000 soldiers. As military tensions with Serbia simmer, a bloc commander said more could be deployed in the near future.
Colonel Christopher Samulski, a regional commander of NATO’s KFOR Kosovo mission, told reporters on Wednesday that the soldiers had been brought in “as part of normal emergency planning”, Reuters reports that.
Samulski did not disclose how many reserves had come in, but said it was a “battalion size” unit, with a battalion generally numbering between 500 and 1,000 troops. The commander said the British Army’s First Fusiliers are part of the training.
There are usually about 3,700 KFOR troops stationed in Kosovo at one time.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after NATO bombed Serbia on behalf of ethnic Albanian separatists in the province. Kosovo’s independence is recognized by 97 of the 193 UN member states, most of them allies of the US. Serbia, Russia and China are among those who do not recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia escalated in August after Pristina passed a law banning documents and license plates issued by Serbia. Kosovo attempted to enforce the new measure by sending heavily armed special police to take over the border between Serbia and Kosovo, while local Serbs resisted by erecting roadblocks and engaging in violent clashes with Pristina’s armed forces.
Kosovo then agreed to delay implementation of the law until September 1, before extending the deadline to October 31. With this date in the offing, Samulski said that “other reserves outside Kosovo” could be made available “Should we believe they are necessary, based on the current situation on the ground.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has accused Kosovo of threatening his country’s security by sending his special forces to border regions. After swearing before “save our people” in Kosovo from “persecution and pogroms” if necessary, Vucic warned lawmakers in Belgrade on Tuesday that “the danger is close, objective and serious.”