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Is Kosovo a viable independent state?

With Serbia's small southern province of Kosovo expected to declare

independence from Serbia on 17 February, our correspondent Nick Thorpe
examines whether it has what it takes to survive as a state.

There are many households in Kosovo. But no-one knows quite how many.
So many people have gone - migrated in search of work, or fled to areas where their
ethnic group is in the majority. So many have returned, or keep one foot in Kosovo,
one in another country.
There is no reliable figure for the population. Most estimates swing between 1.7 and
2.4 million.
Gerald Knaus, head of the European Stability Initiative in Vienna, says that's a
serious problem.
"If you don't know how many people there are, how can you make credible policy in
fields like education, social policy, pension, if you have no idea about the basic
demography of your population.
"It is a big governance failure."

Market economy
It is clear, though, that unemployment is high. It's estimated that more than 40%
are jobless - and the figure is even higher in the countryside.
On the other hand, Paul Acda, head of the Reconstruction and Economy unit of the
UN mission in Kosovo says serious progress has been achieved since the UN took
"In 1999, 850,000 people coming back displaced by Serbian action, hardly a house
that had a roof on it, whole of infrastructure destroyed, and dead economic
structure, firmly entrenched in Soviet concepts.
"We have created a market economy, benign fiscal arrangements, market
regulators, and got people to think in terms of buying and running businesses as
commercial enterprises.

"It's slow, and there's still work to do of course, and there's still minds to change in
some areas."
One of the many ironies of the Balkans is that poor, overpopulated Kosovo is rich in
The late President Ibrahim Rugova used to present visitors with spectacular chunks
of crystals from the mine at Trepca, in the north. Fifty million tonnes of lead and zinc
remain unexploited, according to a recent survey.
But the equipment is old. Only 600 of the former workforce of 3,000 remain. And in
winter, the management have to beg and borrow railway wagons from elsewhere in
the Balkans.
Another mineral wealth is lignite, or brown coal. Kosovo has second largest lignite
deposit in Europe, and could potentially earn money by exporting power to the
But in order to make the most of its mineral resources, Kosovo needs to find

Paul Acda says: "The biggest indication of how some people see the future, in terms
of inward investment, is a project to build new thermal generator - Kosovo C.
"That's to be done entirely by private investors. The cost of investment 3.5 billion
euros ($5.11bn; £2.59bn). So there is major investment in industry here."
But investors demand security. And uncertainty over Kosovo's future status has
meant that this has been in short supply in recent years.
It has been one of the strongest arguments for independence - with security
guaranteed by the incoming EU mission in Kosovo.
But Gerald Knaus says the EU needs to focus on more than law and justice, the main
part of its remit.
It should be offering pre-accession funding for agriculture, he says, and providing a
clear list of tasks to fulfil, with the certainty of EU membership as the reward.
And instead of keeping the people of Kosovo trapped inside a "ghetto" the EU should
give young people a chance to look for jobs in northern and western Europe, if they
cannot find work at home, he argues.

Storm of disapproval
The viability of an independent Kosovo depends first and foremost on the
circumstances of its birth, and the Serbian government has drawn up a list of
punitive measures.
Roy Reeve, head of planning for the EU mission, predicts Serbia will put pressure on
Kosovo by enacting a series of measures related to supply, the provision of water for
domestic and industrial use and various trade embargos.
International officials are confident that Kosovo can weather the storm of Serbian
disapproval - from outside.
But some 120,000 Serbs inside Kosovo also bitterly oppose independence - 5% of
the population.
There are two fears: of an exodus of Serbs from areas where they are in the
minority, and of an attempt by the north, where they're in the majority, to declare
independence from Kosovo - and attach themselves to Serbia.
After the declaration of independence, and a degree of international recognition, a
120-day transition period is expected - the slow birth of Europe's newest state.
Whether Kosovo will work or not depends on the degree of hostility it meets, and the
quality of the help it receives.

Ten Years After the War in Kosovo: International

Law, Kosovo and the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

By Linda Strite Murnane

This spring, marking the tenth anniversary of the NATO-Serbia conflict over Kosovo,
many paused to remember those who died in the conflicts which played out in the
Balkans beginning in 1991, and specifically during the Kosovo conflict that
culminated in the 1999 war (and ended ten years ago this week). This moment also
presents a welcome opportunity to consider the role that international criminal
justice has played in the aftermath of “Operation Allied Force”. This Insight briefly
examines how the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
has addressed war crimes and crimes against humanity alleged to have been
committed in Kosovo during the conflict and how its cases have advanced the cause
of international criminal justice.

Addressing Atrocities in Kosovo through the ICTY

Established by Resolution 808 of the United Nations Security Council in 1993, in the
midst of the Bosnia conflict, the ICTY has indicted more than 160 people.[1]
Fourteen indictees have been charged with crimes alleged to have occurred in
Kosovo.[2] Of these fourteen, seven were convicted, five acquitted at the trial level,
one case remains at trial, and one, Slobodan Miloševi?, died during trial, ending the
case without a judgment. Eight indictees were Serbian connected with the
government or military; six were Kosovar Albanians associated with the Kosovo
Liberation Army.

Cases Against Serb Officials

The best known defendant of the Tribunal was Slobodan Miloševi?, the former
President of Serbia and of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Indicted by former
ICTY Prosecutor Louise Arbour in the midst of the Kosovo conflict in May 1999,
Miloševi? eventually faced charges for crimes alleged to have occurred in Kosovo,
Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The crux of the Kosovo indictment alleged
that Miloševi? bore responsibility for a range of crimes committed by Serb forces
against Kosovar Albanians in 1998 and 1999, including forced deportation of
approximately 800,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians, sexual assault by forces of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Serbia against Kosovo Albanians, murder of
hundreds of men, women and children, and destruction of property through a
widespread and systematic campaign against Kosovo Albanians. Arrested on April 1,
2001, after being voted out of office, Miloševi? was transferred to the ICTY on June
28, 2001. His trial began in February 2002, generating complete prosecution and
defense cases and a significant amount of documentation and testimony. However,
the trial ended without a judgment when Miloševi? died while in detention on March
11, 2006.

Prosecutor v. Milutinovi?, et al. is the most recent Kosovo case decided by the
ICTY. In this case, six former officials were tried in a joint proceeding: the President
of Serbia, Milan Milutinovi?; the Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, Nikola Šainovi?; the Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army (VJ),
Dragoljub Ojdani?; the Commander of the Third Army of the VJ, Nebojša Pavkovi?;
the Chief of Staff of the Priština Corps of the VJ, Valdimir Lazarevi?; and the Head of
the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP) Staff for Kosovo and Metohija, Sreten
Luki?. The prosecutor alleged that each had participated in a joint criminal
enterprise that began no later than October 1998. The alleged purpose of the joint
criminal enterprise was, among other things, to modify the ethnic balance in Kosovo
to ensure continued Serbian control over the province. The indictment alleged that
the criminal enterprise was to be carried out through a widespread or systematic
campaign of terror and violence that included deportations and forced transfers,
murder and persecution of the Kosovo Albanian population between January 1 and
June 20, 1999.[3] The six accused had, at one time, also been part of the indictment
against Slobodan Miloševi?, but the cases were later severed.[4]
On February 26, 2009, a trial chamber convicted five of the six accused, sentencing
them to terms of 15 to 22 years for their involvement in acts of deportation, and
other inhumane acts, including forcible transfer, and murder and persecution on
political, racial or religious grounds.[5] Additionally, the Trial Chamber concluded
that the evidence supported the existence of a joint criminal enterprise alleged in
the indictment. Only Milan Milutinovi?, President of Serbia from December 21, 1997
until December 29, 2002 and member of the Supreme Defense Council of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), was acquitted.[6]
The case of the six accused was important in holding superiors accountable for their
conduct during war. The mere fact that the case was tried, and that the Trial
Chamber issued a judgment, was, in and of itself, an important achievement.
Additionally, the judgment included significant language that further hones legal
principles and doctrines in the field. The four-volume judgment defines elements of
sexual assault – the first time the elements of this crime have been articulated in an
international criminal law judgment.[7] As is noted in the judgment, even the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women does
not mention sexual assault.[8]

The judgment is also important for its review of the NATO bombing, which was
presented as a defense to the deportations and forcible displacements charges. The
Trial Chamber noted that none of the Kosovo Albanians who testified before the
Tribunal in this case indicated that they had left their homes because of the NATO
bombing.[9] The Trial Chamber also concluded that NATO bombing occurred
throughout Serbia, with Belgrade suffering the most destruction, and yet people did
not leave Belgrade, or other parts of the FRY, in the massive numbers in which
individuals fled Kosovo. The Chamber concluded, therefore, that the NATO bombing
was not the reason for the mass displacement of Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo.[10]

The concept of criminal liability under the context of a joint criminal enterprise,
discussed in the Milutinovi?, et al., judgment and other ICTY case law, remains an
issue of particular controversy among practitioners in international criminal law. In
Milutinovi?, et al. the Trial Chamber concluded that there was a joint criminal
enterprise, perpetrated by a campaign of widespread and systematic violence
against the Kosovo Albanian population between March and June 1999, which
resulted in massive displacement of persons. The intended purpose of the joint
criminal enterprise, according to the Trial Chamber, was to alter the ethnic balance
of Kosovo to ensure Serbian control of Kosovo. The issue may be further clarified
when the Appeals Chamber passes on this aspect of the judgment.
The ?or?evi? case, alluded to above as a related case to Milutinovi?, et al., is
currently being heard at the ICTY. He is charged with deportation, other inhumane
acts (forcible transfer), murder, persecution on political, racial, or religious grounds
(crimes against humanity), and other violations of the laws or customs of war.[11]
His trial began on January 27, 2009.

Cases Against KLA Members

In November 2004, the Tribunal began the trial against Fatmir Limaj, Isak Musliu,
and Haradin Bala. Limaj was allegedly the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)
Commander responsible for the Lapušnik area and the KLA prison located west of
Priština. Musliu was also a commander of the area and the camp, and allegedly
served as a guard at the camp at times. Both Limaj and Musliu were found not guilty
of charges of persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, cruel treatment,
murder and rape in the judgment announced on November 30, 2005.[12] The
findings were confirmed by the Appeals Chamber in September 2007.

Bala, a guard at the KLA Lapušnik prison camp, was convicted of persecutions on
political, racial and religious grounds, cruel treatment, murders and rape, and was
sentenced to 13 years in prison for his role in maintenance and enforcement of
inhumane conditions in the camp. He was also found guilty for aiding in the torture
of one prisoner, mistreating of three prisoners, and the murder of about nine
prisoners from the prison camp in the Beriša mountains. His conviction was affirmed
by the Appeals Chamber on September 27, 2007.

The Tribunal again turned to crimes in Kosovo in the joint trial of Ramush Haradinaj,
former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) (and Kosovar prime
minister at the time of indictment), Idriz Balaj, former commander of a special unit
of the KLA known as the “Black Eagles”, and Lahi Brahimaj, member of the KLA
General Staff. The three were indicted in 2005 for acts committed by KLA soldiers
who, the indictment alleged, were perpetrating a joint criminal enterprise to secure
total control over the zone of Dukagjin through the unlawful removal and
mistreatment of Serb civilians, and through mistreatment of Kosovar Albanians,
Kosovar Roma/Egyptian other civilians suspected of collaborating with Serbian
forces, or being against the KLA. Additionally, the indictment alleged that soldiers
under their command engaged in mistreatment of prisoners held at detention
camps operated by the KLA. The indictments included charges of cruel treatment,
torture, rape and murder.[13] The Trial Chamber heard more than 100 witnesses
during the proceeding, which began in March 2007.[14] The judgment was rendered
on April 3, 2008.[15]

Of the three, only Brahimaj was convicted of cruel treatment and torture, violations
of the laws or customs of war; he was also found to have participated in the cruel
treatment and torture of a specific victim. Additionally, he was found criminally
responsible for his involvement in the interrogation and, as a person in a position of
authority, the infliction of serious physical suffering on another victim. The Trial
Chamber sentenced Brahimaj to six years imprisonment[16] and acquitted both
Haradinaj and Balaj, finding insufficient evidence to sustain the charges against
them. As with all cases before the ICTY, both the decisions to acquit and convict
may be submitted on appeal, and in the case of Haradinaj, Brahimaj and Balaj, the
Trial Chamber judgment is pending before the Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber.
Significant in the joint trial of these three KLA leaders was the Chamber’s statement
in the judgment that it had encountered great difficulty in securing witnesses to
testify. The Chamber noted that many witnesses cited fear of reprisal as a prominent
reason not to give testimony before the Trial Chamber. The ongoing instability in
Kosovo, ten years after the conflict, was cited by the Chamber as causing great
difficulty in obtaining necessary testimony.[17]

In all likelihood, without the ICTY, the individuals accused of crimes in Kosovo would
have faced no system of accountability, domestically or internationally. The few
cases may not bring justice to the full scale of crimes committed ten years ago, but
they underscore that international criminal law can play a role in holding the most
senior military and civilian leaders responsible for atrocities. Whether they will play
a role in reconciliation and future peacemaking still remains an unfolding story.

Welcome to Kosovo! The World's Newest Narco State

by Tom Burghardt

The unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim

Thaci, former warlord/commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), heralds the
birth of a new European narco state.

The illegal dismemberment of Serbia, completing the U.S./EU/NATO destruction of

Yugoslavia, is proclaimed by ruling elites and their sycophants as an exemplary
means to bring "peace and stability" to the region. This provocative move, outside
the framework of international law, threatens any sovereign state with similar
treatment should they deviate from the "Washington consensus."

Far from bringing "peace" let alone "stability," an "independent" Kosovo will serve
as a militarized outpost for Western capitalist powers intent on spreading their
tentacles East, further encircling Russia by penetrating the former spheres of
influence of the Soviet Union.

Led by dodgy characters and war criminals such as Hashim Thaci and Agim Ceku,
"independent" Kosovo is a gangster state governed by thugs with ties to Albanian
drug trafficking syndicates and al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda, the KLA and Western Intelligence

Al-Qaeda's service to the CIA and other Western intelligence services is well-
documented. Beginning in 1998 and perhaps earlier, the London-based cleric Sheikh
Omar Bakri Mohammed, the "emir" of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group al-
Muhajiroun began a recruitment drive for aspiring mujahideen for the "holy war" in
Kosovo at London's notorious Finsbury Park Mosque.

On Friday, March 13, 1998 a London rally for the jihad was backed by some 50 local
Islamist organizations. According to Christopher Deliso,
...the Albanian Islamic Society of London, headed by Kosovar Sheik Muhammed
Stubla, was lobbying and raising money for the KLA's campaign. ... In contradiction
to the KLA leadership's claims about secularism, the Kosovar sheik specifically
defined the militant group as "an Albanian Islamic organisation which is determined
to defend itself, its people, its homeland, and its religion with all its capabilities and
by all means." ... The chief bank account for fundraising was in the London branch of
terrorist-linked Habibsons Bank of Pakistan. (The Coming Balkan Caliphate,
Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007, p. 43)

In 2005, in the wake of the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks in London, it was revealed
that Bakri, a probable asset of Britain's MI6, was the "spiritual" force behind the
deadly attacks.

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed reports that,

The reluctance to take decisive action against the leadership of the extremist
network in the UK has a long history. According to John Loftus, a former Justice
Department prosecutor, Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, as well as the suspected
mastermind of the London bombings Haroon Aswat, were all recruited by MI6 in the
mid-1990s to draft up British Muslims to fight in Kosovo. American and French
security sources corroborate the revelation. The MI6 connection raises questions
about Bakri's relationship with British authorities today. Exiled to Lebanon and
outside British jurisdiction, he is effectively immune to prosecution. ("Sources:
August terror plot is a 'fiction' underscoring police failures," The Raw Story, Monday,
September 18, 2006)

Before fleeing, Bakri defended the actions of his young dupes by proclaiming, "We
don't make a distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-
innocents. Only between Muslims and unbelievers. And the life of an unbeliever has
no value. It has no sanctity."

The current "secular" Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, when he served as KLA warlord
was identified in media reports as having operational links to the al-Qaeda network.
Such reports are not surprising when one considers that for earlier U.S./NATO
"service" in Bosnia, bin Laden himself was rewarded a Bosnian passport by the
"democratic" government of former Nazi and Islamist ideologue, Alija Izetbegovic.

As the Afghan-Arab database of disposable intelligence assets streamed into

Kosovo, often from Albania with the active assistance of narcotrafficking gangsters
under NATO supervision, they replenished the ranks of Thaci's terrorist army.

Michel Chossudovsky writes,

Mercenaries financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had been fighting in Bosnia. And
the Bosnian pattern was replicated in Kosovo: Mujahadeen mercenaries from various
Islamic countries are reported to be fighting alongside the KLA in Kosovo. German,
Turkish and Afghan instructors were reported to be training the KLA in guerrilla and
diversion tactics. ... According to a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, financial support
from Islamic countries to the KLA had been channelled through the former Albanian
chief of the National Information Service (NIS), Bashkim Gazidede. "Gazidede,
reportedly a devout Moslem who fled Albania in March of last year [1997], is
presently [1998] being investigated for his contacts with Islamic terrorist
organizations." ("Kosovo 'freedom fighters' financed by organised crime," World
Socialist Web Site, 10 April 1999)

These links are hardly casual. On the contrary, as Peter Dale Scott avers,
The closeness of the KLA to al-Qaeda was acknowledged again in the Western press,
after Afghan-connected KLA guerrillas proceeded in 2001 to conduct guerrilla
warfare in Macedonia. Press accounts included an Interpol report containing the
allegation that one of bin Laden's senior lieutenants was the commander of an elite
KLA unit operating in Kosovo in 1999. This was probably Mohammed al-Zawahiri.
(The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America, Berkeley: University
of California Press, 2007, p. 169)

Agim Ceku another "Prime Minister," committed massive war crimes in the Croatian
region of Krajina when employed by the Croatian army as a brigadier general. As a
key planner of Operation Storm, Ceku's forces massacred Serbs and presided over
the largest ethnic cleansing during NATO's Yugoslavian destabilization campaign.
Some 250,000 Serbs fled for their lives as Ceku's black-uniformed shock troops,
many adorned with symbols of the Nazi Ustasha puppet regime during World War II
were driven from Croatia.

According to Gregory Elich,

The invasion of Krajina was preceded by a thorough CIA and DIA analysis of the
region. According to Balkan specialist Ivo Banac, this "tactical and intelligence
support" was furnished to the Croatian Army at the beginning of its offensive. ... Two
months earlier, the Pentagon contracted Military Professional Resources, Inc (MPRI)
to train the Croatian military. According to a Croatian officer, MPRI advisors "lecture
us on tactics and big war operations on the level of brigades, which is why we
needed them for Operation Storm when we took the Krajina." Croatian sources claim
that U.S. satellite intelligence was furnished to the Croatian military. Following the
invasion of Krajina, the U.S. rewarded Croatia with an agreement "broadening
existing cooperation" between MPRI and the Croatian military. U.S. advisors assisted
in the reorganization of the Croatian Army. Referring to this reorganization in an
interview with the newspaper Vecernji List, Croatian General Tihomir Blaskic said,
"We are building the foundations of our organization on the traditions of the
Croatian home guard" -- pro-Nazi troops in World War II. ("The Invasion of Serbian
Krajina," Emperors Clothes, no date)

Following on the heels of this sterling "victory," Ceku became KLA commander in
1999 and "Prime Minister" in 2006. There is an outstanding Interpol warrant for his
arrest according to Michel Chossudovsky.

The KLA: "Trained-up fierce" by Germany's KSK

As in Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia, the Kosovo Liberation Army was secretly
armed by America and Germany and remains what it has always been, a creature of
Western intelligence services.

Christopher Deliso observes,

In 1996, Germany's BND established a major station in Tirana...and another in Rome
to select and train future KLA fighters. According to Le Monde Diplomatique, "special
forces in Berlin provided the operational training and supplied arms and
transmission equipment from ex-East German Stasi stocks as well as Black
uniforms." The Italian headquarters recruited Albanian immigrants passing through
ports such as Brindisi and Trieste, while German military intelligence, the
Militaramschirmdienst, and the Kommando Spezialkräfte Special Forces (KSK),
offered military training and provisions to the KLA in the remote Mirdita Mountains
of northern Albania controlled by the deposed president, Sali Berisha.
In 1996, BND Chief Geiger's deputy, Rainer Kesselring, the son of the Nazi Luftwaffe
general responsible for the bombing of Belgrade in 1941 that left 17,000 dead,
oversaw KSK training of Albanian recruits at a Turkish military base near Izmir. (The
Coming Balkan Caliphate, Westport: Praeger Security International, 2007, pp. 37-38)

Hypocritically, while Washington had officially designated the KLA a "terrorist

organization" funded by the heroin trade, the Clinton administration was complicit
with their German allies in the division of the Serb province along ethnic and
religious lines.

By 1998, the KLA took control of between 25 to 40 percent of the province before
Serb forces wrested the KLA-held areas back. Facing imminent defeat, the Kosovo
Liberation Army and allied mujahideen fighters appealed to Washington, citing the
imminent danger of "ethnic cleansing" by the Serbs. Laughable on the face of it,
Albanians constitute fully 90 percent of Kosovo's population, and in fact, it was the
Serbs, Roma and Jews who were being brutalized by KLA hit squads, their homes
torched, their churches and synagogues sacked. It was the dismantling of the KLA's
terrorist infrastructure by the Yugoslav People's Army that was the trigger that
prompted direct military intervention by NATO in 1999.

As in Iraq, the 78 day U.S. bombing campaign targeted critical civilian infrastructure
in Serbia: bridges, factories, power plants, electrical transmission hubs,
communications centers. Throughout Serbia and Kosovo itself, the U.S. scattered
tons of radioactive depleted uranium munitions and tens of thousands of cluster
bombs. The U.S. attack, ostensibly to "protect" Kosovo's population from Serb
depredations caused some 800,000 civilians to flee NATO's devastating raids.

For Washington, drunk on the illusion that its policies had hastened the collapse of a
bureaucratized and rotten Soviet system, the dismemberment of Yugoslavia would
again represent the triumph of the so-called "free market" and "democracy" under
the umbrella of a new international order administered by World Bank/IMF "reforms":
Francis Fukuyama's short-lived "end of history." While on the opposite pole of the
same ideological dead end, political Islam's tactical alliance with the West was a
means to establish a bridgehead for penetration into Europe via dodgy Saudi,
Kuwaiti and Gulf "charities" in pursuit of their quixotic quest of establishing a
"divine" (Islamicized) capitalist order rising from the ashes of a decadent West.

Two heads, same poisonous snake.

The KLA's Links to the International Heroin Trade

In Kosovo, Hashim Thaci's KLA served as the militarized vanguard for the Albanian
mafia whose "15 Families" control virtually every facet of the Balkan heroin trade.
Kosovar traffickers ship heroin originating exclusively from Asia's Golden Crescent.
At one end lies Afghanistan where poppy is harvested for transshipment through
Iran and Turkey; as morphine base it is then refined into "product" for worldwide
consumption. From there it passes into the hands of the Albanian syndicates who
control the Balkan Route.
As the San Francisco Chronicle reported,
Until the war intervened, Kosovars were the acknowledged masters of the trade,
credited with shoving aside the Turkish gangs that had long dominated narcotics
trafficking along the Balkan Route, and effectively directing the ethnic Albanian

Kosovar bosses "orchestrated the traffic, regulated the rate and set the prices,"
according to journalist Leonardo Coen, who covers racketeering and organized crime
in the Balkans for the Italian daily La Repubblica.

"The Kosovars had a 10-year head start on their cousins across the border, simply
because their Yugoslav passports allowed them to travel earlier and much more
widely than someone from communist Albania," said Michel Koutouzis, a senior
researcher at Geopolitical Drug Watch who is regarded as Europe's leading expert
on the Balkan Route.

"That allowed them to establish very efficient overseas networks through the
worldwide Albanian diaspora -- and in the process, to forge ties with other
underworld groups involved in the heroin trade, such as Chinese triads in Vancouver
and Vietnamese in Australia," Koutouzis told The Chronicle. (Frank Viviano, "KLA
Linked to Enormous Heroin Trade," Wednesday, May 5, 1999, Page A-1)

It is hardly an accident that the meteoric rise of the Kosovar families to the top of
the narcotrafficking hierarchy coincided with the KLA's sudden appearance in the
area in 1997.

As Peter Klebnikov observed,

As the war in Kosovo heated up, the drug traffickers began supplying the KLA with
weapons procured from Eastern European and Italian crime groups in exchange for
heroin. The 15 Families also lent their private armies to fight alongside the KLA. Clad
in new Swiss uniforms and equipped with modern weaponry, these troops stood out
among the ragtag irregulars of the KLA. In all, this was a formidable aid package. It's
therefore not surprising, say European law enforcement officials, that the faction
that ultimately seized power in Kosovo -- the KLA under Hashim Thaci -- was the
group that maintained the closest links to traffickers. "As the biggest contributors,
the drug traffickers may have gotten the most influence in running the country,"
says Koutouzis. ("Heroin Heroes," Mother Jones, January/February 2000)

As is well-known, U.S. destabilization programs and covert operations rely on far-

right provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to facilitate the
dirty work. Throughout its Balkan operations the CIA made liberal use of these
preexisting narcotics networks to arm the KLA and provide them with targets.

The rest is history, as they say.

Kosovo Today

Has anything changed in the intervening years? Hardly. In fact, the vise-like grip of
the Albanian mafia over narcotics, human trafficking and arms smuggling has
cemented the "15 Families" place atop Europe's hierarchy of crime, an essential arm
of the capitalist deep state.

Considering NATO and the UN's lofty mandate to bring "peace and stability" to the
region through "democracy promotion" and "institution building," what does the
balance sheet reveal?

According to regional experts the outlook for Kosovo is grim. The economy is in
shambles, unemployment hovers near 50 percent, a population of young people
with "criminality as the sole career choice" populate a society tottering on the brink
of collapse where the state is dominated by organized crime.

According to former New York Times reporter David Binder, citing a 124-page
investigation by the Institute for European Policy commissioned by the German
"It is a Mafia society" based on "capture of the state" by criminal elements. ("State
capture" is a term coined in 2000 by a group of World Bank analysts to describe
countries where government structures have been seized by corrupt financial
oligarchies. This study applied the term to Montenegro's Milo Djukanovic, by way of
his cigarette smuggling and to Slovenia, with the arms smuggling conducted by
Janez Jansa). In Kosovo, it says, "There is a need for thorough change of the elite."

Fat chance that happening anytime soon! Binder reports:

In the authors' definition, Kosovan organized crime "consists of multimillion-Euro
organizations with guerrilla experience and espionage expertise." They quote a
German intelligence service report of "closest ties between leading political decision
makers and the dominant criminal class" and name Ramush Haradinaj, Hashim
Thaci and Xhavit Haliti as compromised leaders who are "internally protected by
parliamentary immunity and abroad by international law." They scornfully quote the
UNMIK chief from 2004-2006, Soeren Jessen Petersen, calling Haradinaj "a close and
personal friend." UNMIK, they add "is in many respects an element of the local
problem scene."

The study sharply criticizes the United States for "abetting the escape of criminals"
in Kosovo as well as "preventing European investigators from working." This has
made Americans "vulnerable to blackmail." It notes "secret CIA detention centers"
at Camp Bondsteel and assails American military training for Kosovo (Albanian)
police by Dyncorp, authorized by the Pentagon. ("Kosovo Auf Deutsch," Balkan
Analysis, November 18, 2007)
As we can readily observe in other climes, the interpenetration of the state by
criminal elites serve as the preferred mechanism to cement a "public-private
partnership" founded on corruption, maintained by brute force solely for purposes of
resource extraction, pipeline politics, military bases and the geopolitical advantage
gained over "market" rivals.

As the U.S. Embassy burns in Belgrade, all in all, its another "Mission Accomplished"
moment for the United States.
18 February 2008
United States Recognizes Kosovo as Independent State
Rice congratulates people of Kosovo for historic decision
Washington –- The United States welcomes the commitments Kosovo made in its
declaration of independence to accept a special U.N. implementation plan and to
embrace multi-ethnicity as part of good governance. The Kosovo parliament
declared the nation’s independence February 17 in Pristina.
“The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and
independent state,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said February 18 in a
statement released in Washington. “We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this
historic occasion.”
Rice is traveling with President Bush on a five-nation state visit to Africa.
Bush has agreed to establish formal diplomatic relations between the United States
and Kosovo, Rice said. “The establishment of these relations will reaffirm the
special ties of friendship that have linked together the people of the United States
and Kosovo.”
In announcing its independence February 17, the Kosovo government said it was
accepting the terms, in full, set down by U.N. Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari in 2007
to build a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo that will be independent, subject to a
period of international supervision.
Kosovo, a nation of 2 million, has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999 and is policed
by 16,000 NATO-led security forces. Kosovo had remained a part of Serbia even
though it was under U.N. administration.
Ahtisaari recommended that Kosovo be granted internationally supervised
independence in 2007.
“In light of the conflicts of the 1990s, independence is the only viable option to
promote stability in the region,” Rice said. “The United States supports the
Ahtisaari Plan and will work with its international partners to help implement it.”
The unusual combination of factors found in the Kosovo situation, Rice says, is not
to be found elsewhere, adding that “Kosovo cannot be seen as a precedent for any
other situation in the world today.”
At the same time, Rice said that the United States reaffirms its friendship with
Serbia, an ally during two world wars.
“We invite Serbia’s leaders to work together with the United States and our partners
to accomplish shared goals, such as the protection of the rights, security, culture,
and livelihood of the Serb community in Kosovo,” Rice said.
The United States formally joined with major European states February 18 in
recognizing Kosovo independence. France and Britain led European nations earlier.
U.S. Representative Howard Berman, acting chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, added his support to the administration’s recognition of the nation of
“I am proud to welcome this new member into the community of sovereign states,
and I congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic day,” Berman said. “Now
the hard work begins. Much remains to be done to ensure that Kosovo’s transition is
“The challenges ahead include tackling high unemployment and bolstering the
country’s weak economy, strengthening political institutions and the rule of law, and
preserving security throughout the region,” he said.