Intro : The Supreme Allied Commander, Europe Admiral James Stavridis has visited Kosovo and KFOR on 29 of August. Radio KFOR had the honour of an exclusive interview with Admiral Stavridis regarding recent developments in Kosovo.
Admiral, MG Erhard Bühler is completing his assignment in less than two weeks. What were the main achievements during his command?
I think General Bühler has done an excellent job. One thing that we look for always is that has he been able to maintain a safe and secure environment? When I look back on this year, I can say yes. Certainly there had been some difficulties recently up in the North, but I think they were well handled by a combination of EULEX, KFOR and the authorities of Kosovo. So overall the number one achievement is the safe and secure environment and the second one I would point to is turning over several of the sensitive religious sites in the South to the Kosovo authorities for them to provide protection is indication of his abilities to conduct this, and then thirdly he has done all of that without any significant casualties to his force. So overall I would say he has done an excellent job this year.
What is your view of the events surrounding the burning of the Gate 1 on 27 July?
Well anytime people resort to violence it's a mistake and it does not move us forward. So I condemn the violence in the strongest terms. I am very happy that our KFOR forces were able to help restore order and I look forward to a continuing dialogue so that we can resolve problems like this without violence.
Will the previous state-situation return in the North, or will KFOR continue to control the borders?
That depends on the dialogue that will be unfolding. I believe beginning this week between authorities in Serbia and authorities in Kosovo itself and how that dialogue unfolds will determine what KFOR s actions are. Our job is to maintain a safe and secure environment and we will do that.
What are the indicators on which NATO gives the assessment that the situation in Kosovo is calm, so that stability is not threatened by the reduction of KFOR troops?
We look at the wide variety of factors to include most obviously any incidents, any level of violence. We also look at the smuggling activity, we look at our ability to provide surveillance to understand what's going on, on the ground and in the air throughout the nation, and the technical standards we have for doing that and we look at the international environment, we look at how nations are working around the borders of Kosovo. So there are wide variety of indicators we use. At the moment we are very steady at the forces we have around five thousand in country. I am comfortable with that level given the situation, and we will continue to evaluate as the time goes forward.
When are we expecting the new phase of downsizing KFOR troops?
Too early to say! At this point and time we are just going to take our time, we are going to be very measured in our assessment and we are going to make sure that we fulfill our NATO mission, which is to have a safe and secure environment. At the moment I am very comfortable with about five thousand troops to be able to do that.
Radio KFOR Editor in Chief, Mirëditë Bajrami