Britain to start reducing peacekeepers in Kosovo in March

Britain will start reducing its troops from the NATO-led international peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) in late March as a result of the improved security situation, the British Embassy in Pristina said on Wednesday.

The embassy said in a statement on behalf of the British Ministry of Defense that the force of 167 British personnel currently serving in Kosovo would draw down to a small number of posts between the end of March and Sept. 1 in 2009.

“The Supreme Allied Commander Europe has decided that the specific capability, currently provided by the United Kingdom to the NATO force in Kosovo, is no longer required. Our drawdown reflects the changed circumstances in Kosovo, in particular the improved security situation,” said the statement.

It said the key milestones in Kosovo’s independence have passed without major incidents and the security situation in Kosovo is generally calm.

Dominated by ethnic Albanians, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 and has been recognized by 55 countries, including the United States and most of the EU member states.

KFOR’s commander Italian General Giuseppe Emilio Gay said in Pristina on Tuesday that KFOR would reduce unspecified number of troops this year as a result of the peaceful and stable security situation in Kosovo but it did not mean that KFOR would withdraw from Kosovo.

According to the British Embassy’s statement, NATO remains well-placed to deal with any potential security incidents in Kosovo as over 14,000 KFOR personnel are still in theater, and the EU Rule of Law Mission has recently rolled out across Kosovo.

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