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Context of 'April 27, 1999: Sen. Lieberman Says US and KLA ‘Stand for the Same Human Values and Principles’'

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The US and NATO provide the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) with arms and training. (Kurop 11/1/2001)

An annual international Islamic conference in Pakistan formally characterizes the Kosovo Liberation Army’s struggle as a “jihad.” (Kurop 11/1/2001)

The six-nation “Contact Group,” comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, meets in London to discuss a resolution to the Kosovo conflict. At the conclusion of the conference, they issue an ultimatum to the Yugoslavian government and Kosovar Albanians, requiring them to attend peace talks in Rambouillet, France beginning on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). (Press Association (London) 1/29/1999; BBC 1/30/1999) However, It appears only the KLA is invited to speak on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians, not Ibrahim Rugova—the only democratically elected leader of Kosovo—or any other member of the Kosovo Democratic League. “Western diplomats have described Rugova as increasingly irrelevant, while the key players in Kosovo are now the rebels of the KLA,” the BBC reports. (BBC 1/31/1999)

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) says it will send representatives to the peace talks in Rambouillet, France on February 6 (see February 6-23, 1999). Representing the KLA, will be Supreme Commander Hashim Thaci, also known as “The Snake,” and four other Kosovars, all militants. (BBC 2/3/1999) On Febuary 4, the Yugoslav government (essentially Serbia) agrees to join the peace talks. (US Information Agency 4/13/1999)

In Rambouillet, France, the Kosovo peace talks are held between the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs under the auspices of the “Contact Group,” which is comprised of delegations from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. (Black 2/15/1999; Whitney and Schmitt 4/1/1999; CNN 4/6/1999) Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives in Rambouillet during the latter half of the talks and brings both sides together for the first time. The Guardian reports that she has “‘abrupt’ and largely one-sided exchanges with the Serbian president, Milan Milutinovic,” and declares “that the threat of NATO attacks ‘remains real.’” The British, on the other hand, apparently disagree with Albright, believing that the use of force is not necessary. The Russians strongly oppose any military action. (Black 2/15/1999; Black 2/24/1999) Albright also works closely with the Kosovar Albanians, who are being advised by Americans Morton Abramowitz, Marshall Harris, and Paul Williams. (Landay 2/10/1999) Albright offers the Albanians “incentives intended to show that Washington is a friend of Kosovo,” the New York Times reports. “Officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army would… be sent to the United States for training in transforming themselves from a guerrilla group into a police force or a political entity.” (Perlez 2/24/1999) Madeleine Albright shakes hands with “freedom fighter” 20-year-old Hashim Thaci, a leader of the KLA (Kurop 11/1/2001) who had previously been labeled a terrorist leader by the US. (Bogdanich 7/11/2004) Toward the end of the conference, the Contact Group provides the two parties with a final draft of the Rambouillet Accords. The Kosovars have a number of issues with the document, especially a provision that would require them to disarm. Another problem is that the proposed accords would not require a referendum on the independence of Kosovo. Notwithstanding these reservations, the Kosovars do not reject the document outright. Rather they say they will accept the agreement after holding “technical consultations” back in Kosovo. The Serbs also refuse to sign the accords because it would give NATO almost complete control of the Yugoslavia. (Black 2/24/1999) Article 8 of Appendix B, titled “Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force,” states: “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.” Article 6 would grant NATO troops operating in Yugoslavia immunity from prosecution, and Article 10 would allow NATO to have cost-free access to all streets, airports, and ports. (Rambouillet Accords: Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo 2/23/1999) As the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung notes, “This passage sounds like a surrender treaty following a war that was lost… The fact that Yugoslavian President Milosevic did not want to sign such a paper is understandable.” (Bogdanich 7/11/2004) With neither party agreeing to sign the accords, the talks end with plans to reconvene on March 15 (see March 15, 1999). (Black 2/24/1999)

The Kosovo Liberation Army agrees to the provisions of the Rambouillet Accords proposed during last month’s peace talks in Rambouillet (see February 6-23, 1999). (Black 3/16/1999)

The Kosovo peace talks end in failure with the Yugoslav government refusing to agree to Appendix B of the Rambouillet Accords (see February 6-23, 1999), which would require the Serbs to provide 28,000 NATO troops “unimpeded” access to the country. (Black 3/16/1999)

NATO launches a bombing campaign on Serbia in an attempt to force Serbian troops to withdraw from Kosovo. Kosovo is part of Serbia, but 90% ethnically Albanian and agitating for autonomy or independence. The air campaign begins just days after the collapse of peace talks (see March 19, 1999). (Priest 9/19/1999) US General Wesley Clark leads the bombing campaign. (BBC 12/25/2003)

An unnamed European intelligence agency secretly reports that al-Qaeda has provided financial support for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Documents found on a KLA militant further reveal that he has been smuggling combatants into Kosovo, mostly Saudis with Albanian passports. The report further notes that the KLA is largely financed by drug trafficking, bringing drugs from Afghanistan into Europe with the blessing of the Taliban. (Jacquard 2002, pp. 71-72)

The US State Department temporarily suspends cooperation between the Bosnian army and the US private mercenary company MPRI. No official reason is given, but media reports indicate that the Bosnian Muslims being trained by MPRI were caught sending weapons to Muslim rebels in the regions of Kosovo and Sandzak in Serbia. Supposedly, millions of dollars of weapons were smuggled to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo. (BBC 4/5/1999; Madsen 8/1/1999; Peterson 10/28/2002)

Speaking in front of a small public rally in Washington in favor of an independent Kosovo, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) says that the “United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles.… Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values.” (Wheeler 4/28/1999)

The US-led NATO alliance begins bombing Serbia in March, pressuring it to withdraw from Kosovo, which is part of Serbia but ethnically dominated by Albanians (see March 24, 1999). During the war, the US publicly denies working with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the dominant political group in Kosovo. However, it will later be revealed that the CIA works closely with the KLA, starting at least from late April 1999. At that time, the CIA and US Special Forces troops begin working with the KLA to defeat the Serbians. The KLA passes on useful information about Serbian positions, allowing NATO forces to bomb them. But since the KLA has a reputation for drug running, civilian atrocities, and links to al-Qaeda, the US military generally uses the Albanian army as an intermediary. KLA representatives meet daily with Albanian military officers in Albania, but CIA and US Army officers are usually present as well. In addition, there is a secret NATO operations center in the town of Kukes, Albania, near the border with Kosovo. Most of the KLA liaison work takes place there. US officials begin considering using the KLA as a light-infantry force if NATO needs to invade Kosovo with ground troops. But the war ends in June 1999 before that becomes necessary (see June 9, 1999). (Priest 9/19/1999) The same month that the CIA begins working closely with the KLA, a European intelligence report indicates the KLA is being funded by al-Qaeda and drugs from Afghanistan (see April 1999).

On June 9, 1999, NATO has been bombing Serbia for 78 days (see March 24, 1999). Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic capitulates, agreeing to withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo. Kosovo technically remains part of Serbia (which is still called Yugoslavia) but it is essentially taken over by NATO. Within months, nearly 50,000 NATO peacekeeping troops occupy Kosovo, and the United Nations takes over its administration. (Priest 9/19/1999)


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