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Context of 'April 1999: Kosovo Militants Being Funded by Al-Qaeda and Drugs from Afghanistan'

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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. [Guardian, 2/15/1999; New York Times, 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. [Guardian, 2/15/1999; Guardian, 2/24/1999] Albright also works closely with the Kosovar Albanians, who are being advised by Americans Morton Abramowitz, Marshall Harris, and Paul Williams. [Christian Science Monitor, 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.” [New York Times, 2/24/1999] Madeleine Albright shakes hands with “freedom fighter” 20-year-old Hashim Thaci, a leader of the KLA [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001] who had previously been labeled a terrorist leader by the US. [Chicago Tribune, 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. [Guardian, 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.” [Chicago Tribune, 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). [Guardian, 2/24/1999]

Entity Tags: Morton I. Abramowitz, Kosovo Liberation Army, Marshall Harris, Paul Williams, Hashim Thaci, Madeleine Albright, Milan Milutinovic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

March 19, 1999: Kosovo Peace Talks Fail

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. [Guardian, 3/16/1999]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Complete 911 Timeline, Complete 911 Timeline

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). [Washington Post, 9/19/1999] US General Wesley Clark leads the bombing campaign. [BBC, 12/25/2003]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Wesley Clark

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

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). [Washington Post, 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).

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, US Special Forces, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Kosovar Albanian Struggle

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. [Washington Post, 9/19/1999]

Entity Tags: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Slobodan Milosevic

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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