Reporters Notebook
Photos by Keith Nordstrom

OPERATION KOSOVO
BY CRAIG BORGES / SUN CHRONICLE STAFF

You can pretty much count on more tragic news to come out of Kosovo over the summer. NATO and KFOR officials are to decide soon, possibly this week, whether to relax what military officials call the Ground Safety Zone, or GSZ.

The GSZ was established all around Kosovo in 1999 following NATO's defeat of the Serb army. NATO declared the approximately 3-mile-wide strip of land, which actually is in Serbia proper, off limits to Serb troops. The strip was designed as a buffer zone to keep the Yugo army and NATO peacekeepers away from each other. Rebels groups that would like to see a greater Albania, or at least an independent Kosovo, quickly established a stronghold in the zone, using it as a safe haven to conduct lightning strikes against both the Serbs and Macedonia to the southeast. The zone was also put to good use in other areas of Kosovo by smugglers who run black markets.

Over the past year the zone has been relaxed, in phases, leaving only the strip bordering Serbia intact.

Military officials here at Camp Bondsteel say that area, too, could be relaxed as early as this month. Officials fear that the many ethnic Albanian rebel groups operating out of the zone will cause problems once the Serbs move back in and fighting between rebels and Serb soldiers is a very real threat.

-----

Keeping up with the many political and rebel groups seeking to establish a foothold in Kosovo can get tiring. Keeping up with the groups' many acronyms isn't easy either.

During the 1999 war, the only rebel group that mattered was the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA in English or UCK in Albanian).

The KLA has since dissolved, or at least its former leader, Hashim Thaqi has pulled a Yassar Arafat/Gerry Adams, going the political route and leading the Kosovo Democratic Party, or PDK.

Since the KLA's demise, a number of other rebel groups seeking a greater Albania or independent Kosovo, have grown.

The groups include the National Liberation Army (NLA), which claims most of its members are citizens of Macedonia who want a greater Kosovo; the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB), which seeks an independent Kosovo, free from Serbia and the umbrella called Yugoslavia; and various other splinter groups unhappy with the NLA, the UCPMB or both. Nothing's ever easy in the Balkans.

-----

Most soldiers, like everyone else, enjoy publicity. They want their families to know the hard work they're doing out here in Kosovo. It doesn't matter much if the reporters aren't from their state or even country.

A couple of Spanish soldiers visiting Camp Bondsteel the other day requested a clipping of a story in which they are mentioned in The Sun Chronicle. Please send it to us in Madrid, they asked, and photos, too. A copy will be in the mail by next week.

-----

Dr. Gregory Quick's father-in-law is Gene Conley, former Milwaukee Braves and Boston Celtics player. Conley played for the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s as well as the Boston Celtics. Quick, a colonel with the U.S. Army Reserve's 399th Combat Support Hospital stationed here in Kosovo, said Conley retired to Foxboro.