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U.S. Plans to Deploy Marines To Kosovo for Peacekeeping

By Dana Priest
The Washington Post

U.S. military planners, turning to America's elite beach-storming service, have decided to send the Marines into Kosovo during an initial stage of a peacekeeping deployment in that embattled Serbian province, administration officials said Thursday.

About 2,200 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., who are now afloat in the Mediterranean, would set the stage for Army troops who would make up a longer-term U.S. presence as part of a European-led and dominated peacekeeping force. Using the Marines would give the United States the ability to deploy troops immediately after a settlement between the Serbian government and secessionist Kosovo rebels, instead of having to wait weeks or months for more heavily equipped Army units to arrive.

At the same time, a senior military officer said many concerns originally expressed by the U.S. Joint Chiefs have been addressed in the latest version of a 25-page military annex to the political settlement that the Serbian government and ethnic Albanian guerrillas are discussing at the Rambouillet peace talks. For instance, Joint Guardian, as the operation has been dubbed, will not require NATO troops to take on police functions, such as making arrests or escorting refugees. Instead, they would monitor local police.

Unlike Bosnia, where NATO troops positioned themselves between the formerly warring factions in "zones of separation," in Kosovo troops would be "like a blanket of snow" over the entire province, said the official. They will be responsible for supervising a withdrawal of forces on both sides, for making sure military equipment is kept in certain storage sites and for monitoring the disarming of some units. They would also monitor the border, which the Serbian army would be allowed to patrol.

Moving the Marines into Kosovo and Bosnia, their first venture into the Balkans, also reflects a desire by the Marine Corps to play a larger role in peacekeeping operations, a growing business for the U.S. military in the post Cold War era.