Early return is a distant hope for most refugees

EVEN IF the details of a peacekeeping force for Kosovo can be rapidly agreed, many if not most of the refugees will spend the winter in Albania and Macedonia, US officials said yesterday.

As the size and complexity of the operation became clearer, it was evident that there will not be enough time to get everyone home before the weather once more turns for the worse.

The peacekeeping force will include 44,000 Nato troops - including 12,000 Britons, 7,000 Americans and 6,500 French - as well as 4,000 non-Nato soldiers from other European nations. There is no indication if, where, or in what strength the Russians would participate.

Until the Serbs withdraw, nothing will happen. There was no withdrawal under way yesterday. Fighting was still taking place in several areas between Serbs and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Some Nato nations want a UN Security Council resolution before they deploy, and a meeting of G8 ministers will take place later this week to prepare it.

The first stage of a peacekeeping operation would be for Serbian forces to withdraw in stages over seven days, starting from the south-west of Kosovo, moving up to the north. Enabling forces of the Nato nations would replace them as they left. "As they withdraw, Nato will come in and fill in behind them," said Ken Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman. This will be a highly complex job to choreograph.

The British and French (who are in the central and western sectors) would go in first. Highly mobile, lightly armed forces - the Parachute Regiment for Britain and the Marines for the US - would be deployed initially.

The enabling forces will de-mine their sectors, then set up communications, military headquarters and command posts, clear important infrastructure like airports, roads and bridges and prepare for the arrival of larger, more heavily-armed forces, such as elements of the US 1st Infantry Division. It will be one or two months before the whole force is present. Then they can begin the task of repairing infrastructure and preparing for refugee return.

There are at least three problems for Nato. The first is the finding, housing and feeding of internally displaced people still in Kosovo. This alone will preclude bringing back the refugees from Macedonia and Albania, who are at least under cover.

Then there is the question of the local Serb minority population. The Pentagon's expectation is that most if not all would leave for Serbia. "Many Serbs may want to leave Kosovo," said Mr Bacon, who gave little indication that the US was concerned if this resulted in a further ethnic partition.

It is not clear how their safety will be ensured if they stay, because there is also the question of the KLA. They would be demilitarised but not disarmed. Mr Bacon said: "They will be allowed to keep hunting rifles and things like that." In practice it would be impossible to disarm them without a fight which Nato clearly does not want.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue
E L James's book Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

Grey is a reminder of how the phenomenon of the best-seller works

It's hard to understand why so many are buying it – but then best-selling was ever an inexact science, says DJ Taylor
Behind the scenes of the world's most experimental science labs

World's most experimental science labs

The photographer Daniel Stier has spent four years gaining access to some of the world's most curious scientific experiments
It's the stroke of champions - so why is the single-handed backhand on the way out?

Single-handed backhand: on the way out?

If today's young guns wish to elevate themselves to the heights of Sampras, Graf and Federer, it's time to fire up the most thrilling shot in tennis
HMS Saracen: Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled

HMS Saracen

Meeting the last survivor of a submarine found 72 years after it was scuttled
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

7/7 bombings 10 years on

Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'