NATO to reduce Balkan troop presence
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO defense ministers are expected to agree to scale back their Balkan peacekeeping missions next week after a review found the war-scarred region's security and stability has vastly improved.
The six-month review recommended cutting the NATO troop presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo and transferring more powers to local and regional authorities.
NATO foreign ministers endorsed the proposal in May at a gathering in Reykjavik, Iceland. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be among the decision-makers meeting next week at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
While details of the plan have not been released, the proposal could cut the 19,000-member Bosnian peacekeeping mission by 7,000 troops. The 38,000-member Kosovo mission could be reduced by 4,800 troops.
The Bosnian mission -- known as the Stabilization Force, or SFOR -- was created from an existing peacekeeping mission in 1996. The Kosovo Force, dubbed KFOR, was established after NATO aerial bombardment drove Yugoslav troops and security forces out of the Serbian province in 1999.
The two peacekeeping missions include a total of about 8,000 U.S. troops. It is not yet known how many U.S. troops will be withdrawn under the plan.
NATO officials say these changes would allow their troops to contribute more to the international community by assisting in more refugee issues, border security and law enforcement.
A troop reduction would still keep a NATO presence in the region for an undetermined amount of time, while the smaller force, NATO says, will remain flexible enough to maintain a safe and secure environment.
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