General Sees Gains
Photos by Keith Nordstrom

OPERATION KOSOVO
BY CRAIG BORGES / SUN CHRONICLE STAFF

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo -- Success here is measured not in days or weeks, but in blocks of
months, years and maybe even decades.

Peace and freedom -- the kind people in the United States, Canada and Western Europe enjoy -- may be
the goal of NATO peacekeepers here in the war-ravaged Yugoslav province, but it's not something they
expect any time soon.

The goals of the United States and the many other nations making up the Kosovo Protection Force are
much simpler and tend to focus on the basics -- reduce the number of ethnic killings, bombings and
intimidation, and prevent such ethnic violence from spreading to places such as Macedonia or the
dominate Yugoslav province of Serbia.

For the past several months that responsibility in the U.S.-patrolled sector of Kosovo has fallen on the shoulders of U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth Quinlan, a native of Warwick, R.I.

In an two-hour-long interview in his Camp Bondsteel office last week, Quinlan, who leaves his post as commander of Task Force Falcon and operations in the sector known as the Multi-National Brigade

East later this month, reflected on the role of the United States in the Balkans, its successes and its challenges.

"I'm proud that we're leaving Kosovo in better shape than we found it," he said. "We'll leave here knowing that we've put Kosovo further along the road to peace, away from violence."

Quinlan, a former Rhode Island Army National Guardsman who graduated from Warwick's Vets Memorial High School and the University of Rhode Island, said the violence level experienced today in Kosovo -- occasional bombings, shootings and riots, is relatively low considering less than two years have passed since the province was embroiled in a full-scale war.

"We've been able to keep the violence outside of Kosovo for the most part,'' he said. "There are no military solutions here in Kosovo."

He said the military's role is to provide a safe and secure environment for Kosovars to work out their problems through political means.

"The problems here are political, and we can't impose a military solution on it," he said. "We can provide opportunity for Kosovars and Serbs, but if they can't take this opportunity to make the most of it, that's not our concern. It won't take months but years, possibly generations."

Quinlan used the stock market to illustrate the day-to-day situation in Kosovo.

"The trend on our stock right now is up,'' he said. "It's showing a capital gain. From that
perspective, it's positive."

But, like the stock market, things change daily.

Life changes daily

Violence at Kosovo's border involving ethnic-Albanian rebel groups from Kosovo, threaten the
province's fragile peace daily.

This morning, for example, the Macedonian army exchanged heavy fire with ethnic Albanian rebels
holed up near a northern village, shattering a lull in fighting meant to give politicians a chance to resolve
the crisis, the Associated Press reported.

Mortar, machine-gun, rocket and tank fire rocked the village of Vaksince close to the Kosovo border a
day after the country's leaders agreed on creating a new coalition government in a bid to keep the
country stable.

The fighting, which more than likely involved rebel ethnic Albanian forces from Kosovo, could further
escalate tensions and complicate attempts to reach political solution to the violence.

And on Thursday, NATO peacekeepers seized dozens of weapons intended for ethnic Albanian rebels
in southern Serbia. Among the items seized were 52 rocket launchers, a couple of dozen anti-tank
weapons, five S The weapons were intended for ethnic Albanian rebels fighting in southern Serbia in
an area known as the Ground Safety Zone. The three-mile wide area was created by NATO after NATO
forces drove Serb soldiers from the province in 1999.

The zone follows a mountain range that separates Kosovo from Macedonia as well as Serbia and was
designed to keep the Serb soldiers and NATO apart. But ethnic-Albanian rebel fighters from Kosovo
quickly moved into the zone, using it as a home base to conduct quick raids into both Serbia and
Macedonia.

Most of the Ground Safety Zone has been relaxed but the most volatile section of the zone, that area that
runs along the Serbian border, is expected to be relaxed within a few weeks allowing Serb soldiers to
move in and flush Kosovo-based rebels out.

Quinlan, though admitting violence may be sparked by the relaxation of the Ground Safety Zone, said
the move was a necessary hurdle to overcome on the road to a more stable region.

`` If you measure where we are today to two years ago, it's incredible progress,'' he said. `` It's really
a good-news story.''

He had nothing but praise for the many soldiers -- U.S. and otherwise -- who have made such a peace
possible.

`` Every day the American soldier is covering us in glory,'' he said. `` We really are training the next
generation of Kosovars. Those kids are watching you, how you conduct your business as a
professional. The fact that the U.S. army is multi-ethnic, that sends an impression.''

He said the tours of duty for the U.S. soldiers, which usually last six months to a year, have an
incredible impact on them.

`` They take the story back to hometown America,'' he said. `` The soldiers leave knowing that by
accident of birth, they enjoy the freedom that they do.''

CRAIG BORGES, The Sun Chronicle's assignment editor, was in Kosovo with Photo Editor Keith
Nordstrom, to cover local troops serving as NATO peacekeepers in the Yugoslav province.