NATO announces reduction of troops in Kosovo

08:34, December 10, 2009      

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NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Kosovo (KFOR) will be reduced to 10,000 in January 2010, said Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Admiral James G. Stavridis in Pristina on Wednesday.

"Because of the progress, we have developed a plan that will reduce the forces from NATO here to a level of about 10,000 by the end of January," said Admiral Stavridis. In his second visit to Kosovo in SACEUR capacity, Stavridis met KFOR commander Lieutenant General Markus J. Bentler.

After their meeting, Stavridis said the KFOR reduction is a strong indication of progress and success.

"We will move forward very carefully, and work very closely with all of our partners here and, of course, principally with the government, the Security Force and the Police of Kosovo to make sure that the future of Kosovo continues to be as bright as all of the progress that has been made over the last year and beyond that, he said.

NATO Commander for Europe didn't say if the move has connection with the NATO pledge to send more troops in Afghanistan.

"I don't see a direct connection there. Each nation within the alliance will make its own decision. So, I don't see a direct connection at all," said Stavridis.

He stressed that the hard work and the accomplishments in Kosovo are in every sense a model of how the alliance could move forward in Afghanistan.

"I'm very encouraged by what I see here and I look forward to seeing similar progress in the time ahead in Afghanistan as well," he said.

KFOR was deployed in Kosovo in June 1999 after NATO bombed Serbia to oust Belgrade's security forces from the territory. The force initially had around 50,000 troops from 39 nations but was downsized as the threat of renewed violence faded. About 15,000 troops from 32 countries, mainly from the alliance, are currently serving in Kosovo.

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