”]Lieutenant General Kadri Kastrati was appointed as the commander of the Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) in late November. His military career spans 30 years, and includes service in the Yugoslav National Army, the Croatian Army, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and the Kosovo Protection Corps, predecessor of the KSF. Before being appointed commander he was the KSF’s director of operations.

The KSF’s mission is to conduct crisis response operations in Kosovo and abroad, civil defence operations in Kosovo, and to assist civil authorities in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. The KSF was trained and founded with the assistance of NATO and KFOR troops on the ground.

In 2012, Kosovo will undergo a review of the international presence in the country, which may lead to an end of supervised independence. The political changes in Kosovo could potentially affect the KSF’s mandate as well. In an exclusive interview with SETimes, Kastrati discussed the KSF’s capacities and future plans.

SETimes: What capacities has the KSF achieved?

Lieutenant Gen. Kadri Kastrati: On November 22nd, KFOR commander [Erhard Drews] sent confirmation to the North-Atlantic Council in Brussels that the Kosovo Security Forces have achieved full operational capacity. What does this mean? Out of 132 criteria set by NATO, we have fulfilled all except five, on which we need to work, but which are not linked to the issue of operational capacity. This means that today the Kosovo Security Forces are operational to fulfill all duties according to its mandate.

SETimes: Do you expect a change in the mandate?

Kastrati: We are working, and are committed to advancing the capacities we have. [In 2012] we will have another recruiting phase to increase our human resources. Any obligation or requirement ordered by the government of Kosovo, we — and I as a commander — are ready to fulfill it.

SETimes: In the past, the KSF has participated in two rescue missions in Albania. Are you ready to participate in other regions?

Kastrati: The Kosovo Security Forces have twice been deployed in Albania by the request of the Albanian government to assist them during the floods in northern Albania. With those two operations involving 109 soldiers, we provided a huge contribution and have shown that Kosovo security forces and Kosovo are not just consumers, but also can contribute regionally and in other parts of the world.

In all the meetings we have … one of the requirements is that different countries support us or take us under their umbrella in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. We are ready in some areas in which we have expertise and the necessary capacities to take part, and … our will [is] to take part in operations abroad.

SETimes: How is co-operation with KFOR/NATO?

Kastrati: Our relations with KFOR are excellent. This is demonstrated by the achievement of the operational capacities, because the establishment of the Kosovo Security Forces is a common result of KFOR, NATO and the Kosovo Security Forces. I believe that Kosovo Security Forces are a good way to move towards the Partnership for Peace and to join NATO, as a goal.

SETimes: Describe co-operation with countries in the region.

Kastrati: Co-operation with countries in the region is at a good level and [is evidenced also] by the co-operation memorandums we have signed with all countries in the region, except Serbia. As commander it is my goal to increase this co-operation. One of the requirements of the last Adriatic Charter meeting was that the countries of the region organise a field exercise to increase emergency readiness, and that all countries of the region be ready to act in case of an emergency or catastrophe.

SETimes: Recent media reports suggest an arms embargo from Germany. Are they true?

Kastrati: This is not true. We have our contract with Heckler & Koch and [on December 23rd] the contract for the other part was signed, which is planned according to the budget. The arms which are contracted from this company, for the needs of the Kosovo Security Forces, will arrive very soon.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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