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US Military Official Suggests EU Force Could Take Over From US Troops in Balkans


The top U.S. military officer says the United States is reassessing its involvement in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Myers, told reporters in Kosovo that the United States has an option on the table for a European force to take over for the NATO-led force in Kosovo that includes several thousand American troops.

The general spoke in the Kosovo capital, Pristina, where he met with President Ibrahim Rugova, after a visit to U.S. troops in the province.

General Myers suggested that the European Union could take charge of a Balkan peacekeeping force, as it did recently with a small military operation in Macedonia.

Although he admitted that Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina are more complicated areas, the senior U.S. general said most military tasks have been completed in those areas. He said there are more civilian needs to be fulfilled in Kosovo, including training police and helping the judiciary system function. But the general said any decision on changing the Kosovo force would be made by NATO.

On his way to Kosovo, General Myers told reporters that with military commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world the United States is looking for places where it can reduce its forces.

The United States has about 2,500 troops in Kosovo and 1,500 in Bosnia.

Balkan leaders have, in the past, expressed concerns about a possible withdrawal of American forces, which they view as an essential part of peacekeeping in the still volatile region.

American forces have been deployed in Bosnia since 1995 and in Kosovo since 1999, when NATO bombing forced Serb troops to withdraw from the province.

General Myers is expected to discuss the peacekeeping operations further when he meets Hungarian government officials Thursday in Budapest.

Hungary has supported the peacekeeping operations in the neighboring Balkans, and has also sent a small contingent of troops to Iraq.

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