|NATO Weapons-Gathering Mission a Success, Say Officials |
NATO Weapons-Gathering Mission a Success, Say Officials
By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. -- (AFPS) October 3, 2001 -- A recently completed NATO peacekeeping mission in Macedonia, Task Force Essential Harvest, was a total success, DoD officials said.
Conducted from Aug. 27 to Sept. 25, the effort collected about 3,800 weapons and ammunition from ethnic Albanian armed insurgents along the Macedonia-Kosovo border, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters Oct. 2.
"The region is relatively calm, right now," said Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
Flying back to the United States after a day of meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz had told reporters Sept. 26 that Essential Harvest helped "to head off a worse crisis in Macedonia."
The mission eventually involved 3,500 NATO personnel, including U.S. troops already deployed in the region in medical evacuation and air transport support roles.
For some time now, Serbian and Albanian nationalists have been fighting over the right to rule Kosovo, a southern province of Serbia. On June 20 President Boris Trajkovski of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia requested NATO assistance to disarm ethnic Albanian troops and destroy their weapons.
Danish Army Maj. Gen. Gunnar Lange commanded the task force's headquarters. British Brig. Gen. Barney White-Spunner commanded the pre-deployment force. The task force was composed of troops from Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Specialized assets were provided by Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Italy and the United States.
NATO officials in Brussels announced the successful conclusion of the mission Sept. 26 and that a follow-on mission, Operation Amber Fox, will be led by Germany and will provide security for European Union peace monitors in the region.
"Our role in Operation Amber Fox will essentially be the same as it was for Essential Harvest," Clarke said. No additional U.S. troops would be required for Amber Fox, she added.
During his meetings with NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Wolfowitz said he "tried to express strongly our support for what NATO has done in the Balkans, which I think, overall, even if we started slow, has to be counted as a historic success."