Accessibility links

NATO Says New Kosovo Force To Be Launched Next Week

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- A NATO-trained multiethnic Kosovo Security Force (KSF) will be launched on January 21 to replace an existing civil protection force, NATO has said.

"On January 20, the KPC [Kosovo Protection Force] will be disbanded and on January 21 the Kosovo Security Force will be stood up," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told a news briefing.

NATO has said the locally recruited multiethnic force will have 2,500 personnel with 500 reservists and take several years to be fully operational.

It will be lightly armed and initially take on tasks such as crisis response, civil protection, and ordnance disposal.

NATO allies agreed last year to take on the training of the new force as part of moves to reshape the international security presence in overwhelmingly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo since its Western-backed secession from Serbia last February.

The step is sensitive in the alliance because some allies such as Spain have not recognized Kosovo's independence and so are wary of anything that gives it the accessories of statehood. Madrid says its personnel will not take part in KSF training.

NATO has stressed the KSF would not be an army, nor was it expected to take on military tasks. But it has said police-type duties such as riot control could be included in its remit.

It will replace the KPC, a 3,500-strong civil protection force backed up by some 2,000 reservists that was mostly composed of former Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas who fought against Serbian rule.

Appathurai said training of the civilian element of the KSF would start immediately and interviews for military personnel would take place "relatively soon."

He said the 15,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo would ensure the new force was "democratically controlled and multiethnic" and meet required legal and other standards.

Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu has named KPC commander Sylejman Selimi to head the new force.