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Serbs Withdraw; KLA to Disarm

Wade Boese

SOME 47,000 SERBIAN military and paramilitary forces completed their withdrawal from the Yugoslav province of Kosovo on June 20, leading NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana to officially end the alliance's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. Hours later, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an estimated 17,000 ethnic Albanians fighting for Kosovo independence, agreed to turn in its weapons and disband.

On June 21, Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Serb forces left Kosovo with nearly 800 tanks, armored personnel carriers (APCs) and artillery batteries in tow. Under the terms of a June 9 military agreement, no Serb forces can be within a 5-kilometer "ground safety zone" extending from the Kosovo border into Yugoslavia.

With scant evidence of destroyed equipment, the Defense Department is backing away from earlier calculations that 120 tanks, 220 APCs and 450 artillery and mortar positions were struck by the more than 23,000 bombs and missiles used in NATO air strikes. Any Serb weapon losses, however, are unlikely to be replaced soon as the March 31, 1998 UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia remains in force.

Moreover, future Yugoslav force levels for tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters are capped by the 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control. Though Belgrade suspended implementation of the agreement March 31, and has yet to resume, the other parties (Croatia and both entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Muslim-Croat federation and Bosnian-Serb-controlled Republica Srpska) have said that Yugoslavia has assured them it will abide by the agreement.

For their part, KLA members are prohibited from possessing proscribed weapons (everything but pistols and non-automatic rifles) after midnight July 21. By that date, all KLA heavy weapons and 30 percent of all small arms are to be turned over to registered weapons storage sites. Sixty days later, all KLA weapons, including small arms, are to be in the storage sites under the control of KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo. While skepticism about KLA compliance runs high, initial reports show some weapons are being handed over.