The letter below is by Brigadier Paul Gibson who commanded 1 Para on Nato operations in Kosovo:
December 16, 2010
Nato stopped us from controlling Kosovo’s gangsters
No one should be surprised that Hashim Thaçi, the Prime Minister of Kosovo, has been described as “the Boss”of a criminal network that dealt in heroin and human organs. In 1999 I saw how he and other Kosovo Liberation Army leaders ran Pristina as their personal fiefdom. As the commanding officer of 1 Para, which was charged by Nato with bringing order to Pristina, I witnessed elements of the KLA rampaging like a victorious mob intent on retribution against the beleaguered and evidently defenceless Serbian minority.
The violence meted out by the KLA shocked even the most hardened of paratroopers. The systematic murder of Serbs, who were often shot in front of their families, was commonplace. After nightfall, gangs of KLA thugs wielding AK47s, knuckledusters and knives terrified residents of Serbian apartment blocks. Many Serbs fled and their homes were taken by the KLA.
In the early days of the operation, we were authorised to be firm; we arrested KLA men and confiscated their weapons. But this was stopped by Nato leaders who were ignorant of the ethnic dynamics of the region and who preferred to see the civil war in black and white, not shades of grey. The Blair Government’s spin machine wanted moral simplicity. We were, after all, a “liberating force”; the Serbs were the “bad guys”, so that must make the Kosovo Albanians the “good guys”. The tough line was dropped and the KLA commanders and their numerous bodyguards were allowed to re-arm. Prostitution and drug and people trafficking increased as the KLA’s grip on Pristina tightened.
Worse still, because of that political naivety, British Forces were told to treat the KLA as a legitimate authority. This weakened our operations and emboldened the KLA to greater brutality. One night a Para patrol arrested four KLA soldiers, carrying weapons and grenades, intent on murder and intimidation in a Serb block of flats. We detained them, but six hours later were told to release them without charge. The gang was back in action the following night.
It was wholly unforgiveable that the politicians put British troops into this situation. Had we maintained a tough line we might have inculcated KLA commanders seeking political office with a respect for the rule of law.
In June 1999, just before he fled with his family to Belgrade, a Serbian professor at Pristina University told me: “You must understand that for us the KLA is like the IRA is to you.” That Kosovo is an impoverished, corrupt and ethnically polarised backwater is testament to Nato’s unwillingness to control KLA gangsters.
[Brigadier Paul Gibson commanded 1 Para on Nato operations in Kosovo. The Serbs were the ‘bad guys’, so the Albanians must be the ‘good guys’.]