Defang the KLA
June 11, 1999
Some of the same Whiz Kids who helped put our country into the Serbian frying pan are continuing to spin out harebrained schemes, trying to improve on their burnt offering. Sources say these Ivy college airheads are now chewing on the idea that the United States should quietly train, arm and equip the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Arming the KLA would be like providing Special Forces demolition training to any remaining members of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh's terrorist gang.
In February 1998, Robert Gelbard, Clinton 's envoy for Kosovo, said that the KLA "is, without any questions, a terrorist group."
Intelligence folks say Gelbard's assessment is dead on the money. The KLA's leadership and ranks are filled with radicals, Islamic crazies and heavy haters who are as responsible as Milosevic's worst thugs for the catastrophe visited on the tormented people of Yugoslavia .
International cops say the KLA includes global drug dealers and arms smugglers who've been in bed with the Albanian Mafia for years. The lawmen report that profits from these shady deals armed the KLA and financed their guerrilla attacks on the Serbian police, military and the residents of Kosovo -- terrorist assaults that along with Serbian brutality certainly helped trigger the shootout in Yugoslavia in the first place.
Intelligence reports that some KLA members were trained by international bomber Osama bin Laden's outfit and that radical members of the KLA, which is now trying to pose as a legitimate army, have sworn they'll go down shooting rather than give up their guns.
Recently, Croatian General Agim Ceku became the head of the KLA. While with the Croatian Army, his killing skills were spiffed up by the U.S. mercenary group Military Professional Resources Inc. -- a rent-an-American-soldier enterprise led by a cash-starved retired U.S. Army four-star general.
In 1995, Gen. Ceku was a player in Operation Storm, a covert Clinton-backed and MPRI-trained Croatian military operation that ethnically cleansed 200,000 Serbs from their homes in Croatia , killing thousands of civilians.
Since taking over the KLA, Ceku has purged all of its moderates. If a KLA member was a supporter of Ibrahim Rugova, the exiled "president" of Kosovo who for the past decade has pursued a Gandhi-like nonviolence policy in the troubled province, he was toast. Rugova's peaceful approach is not welcomed by a KLA that's into violently overthrowing the Serbia regime in Kosovo.
On the Kosovo battlefield, the KLA has been clobbered by the more heavily armed Serbs in every major fight -- even though NATO functioned as its dedicated air force.
During the latter phase of the war, the KLA's operations have been reduced to small teams operating as snipers, conducting ambushes and spotting for NATO bombers. These fumbling greenhorns aren't capable of more complex tasks because the KLA is more of a mob than a trained fighting unit. While they have a lot of warm bodies, perhaps as many as 17,000, they have few savvy leaders and their ranks are filled mainly with recruits.
Untrained recruits augmented with cutthroats don't make an army. Only well-led, well- trained, well-equipped and well-disciplined soldiers can be molded into effective fighting teams. And this is not done with a wave of a magic wand. It takes about ten years of sweat and hard work to organize, train and field an effective army from the get-go.
Contrary to the Whiz Kids' schemes and dreams, there's no such thing as an instant army.
Short-term solutions frequently backfire. U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers who'll walk the dangerous peacekeeping beat in Kosovo shouldn't have American-trained-and-armed terrorists attacking them from the shadows.
Once again, as with the 1990s Afghanistan War, we may find ourselves relearning the hard lesson that yesterday's freedom fighters can easily become tomorrow's terrorists. America has a long history of training and arming the Manuel Noriegas and Saddam Husseins only to have their soldiers kill ours when they're no longer our favorite thugs.
So the civilian laptop commandos must stop playing Oliver North and give up on the wrongheaded idea of supporting the KLA on the sly.
Secret armies composed of wild-eyed thugs and idealistic kids don't work. The KLA must be disarmed, or American peacekeepers will pay a price in the minefields of Kosovo.
Col. David Hackworth is co-author of the 1989 international best seller, "About Face" and the subsequent "Brave Men." His latest book is "Hazardous Duty."