NATO commander confirms gradual troops reduction in Kosovo
U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, NATO commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, said Wednesday in Pristina that the alliance would gradually reduce the peacekeeping troops in Kosovo (KFOR) in months to come, Xinhua reported.
"It's envisaged that a reduction of troop numbers to 10,000 can be achieved as early as January 2010," said Fitzgerald.
He pointed out that NATO continues to asses its force levels for all operations.
"For Kosovo the assessment concluded that with the improving security situation KFOR can make gradually and phase reduction of its troop numbers," said Fitzgerald.
According to him, further troop reduction will occur depending on the situation and political direction over the next 12 or 24 months. He said the goal is to reduce troops to approximately 2, 500.
Last week NATO decided to reduce its military presence in Kosovo to 10,000 peacekeepers from the current 15,000 assessing the security situation has improved.
Fitzgerald often visits Kosovo as NATO supervises the creation of Kosovo Security Force. He currently has operational responsibility for NATO missions in the Balkans, Iraq and the Mediterranean.
KFOR has been in Kosovo since June 1999 when NATO airstrikes forced out Serbian troops.