NATO general says Alliance is focused on Ukraine, terrorism

04/08/2014

NATO's top general said that nations in the alliance are co-operating to combat extremism.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 04/08/14

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General Philip M. Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, visited Kosovo on July 30th. [AFP]

The threat of Islamic extremism and the situation in Ukraine continue to top the list of concerns for the Atlantic Alliance, said General Philip M. Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, who discussed both issues on a recent visit to Pristina.

Breedlove said the number of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine is increasing and it is well above 12,000 now, including task groups, battalions, special and air defence units, artillery squads and more.

"We watch the materials move, from inside the central military district of Russia to the area of Rostov, where they are assembled, met, trained, towards the border and then we see them across the border being deployed in Ukraine. Every kind of weapon, supplies, portable weapons, field weapons, armoured vehicles, all of the weapons," he told reporters in Pristina on July 30th.

Russian incursions into Ukraine have been condemned by Western nations and the EU. They have issued a series of sanctions against Moscow, targeting key industries and people close to President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, the threat coming from Islamic extremists and terrorist groups in the Middle East remains a key concern.

"This is a concern not only for Kosovo, but it is a concern for all NATO nations. That radicals that are being generated in the area of conflict, radicals that are transiting from all nations of NATO to include the United States, training and getting skills and returning back to their nations. This is a problem for all of us and the NATO nations are co-operating in many ways to help combat that problem. We think this problem will get worse before it gets better," Breedlove said.

Kosovo authorities are trying to tackle the threat. President Atifete Jahjaga met on July 30th with the heads of security institutions in Kosovo "to discuss the threat by the extremism and radicalism in the country and the measures undertaken by these institutions to prevent and combat this unacceptable phenomenon," her office said.

Her office added that the president had requested from the leaders of the security institutions "to treat with priority and in co-ordination this threat to the security of Kosovo, of the region and beyond, in co-operation with our strategic partners, in order to prevent Kosovo becoming an exporter of this global threat."

"President Jahjaga emphasised that Kosovo will not allow in any given moment to become a source of extremism and a shelter for criminals who incite terror and hatred," Jahjaga's office said in a statement.

The president asked all Kosovo citizens and all religious communities "to co-operate with local authorities and security mechanisms in order to prosecute these individuals behind the attempts to destabilize Kosovo and its long tradition of religious harmony."

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A soldier from the 2nd Brigade of the Danish Division looks at a map as he takes part in a field training exercise during the first phase Saber Strike 2014, at the Rukla military base, Lithuania, on June 14th. The NATO exercise Saber Strike in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, involved about 4,700 personnel from 10 countries. [AFP]

Kosovo political commentator Ymer Mushkolaj said that the threat from the Islamic extremism is growing and the current situation shows that it is an increasing danger for everyone.

"It is the last time that the state structures get in concrete action as soon as possible to fight radicalism concretely, before it is too late for all," Mushkolaj told SETimes.

Donika Emini, a researcher for the Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, said that the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has taken control of portions of Iraq and Syria, is operating swiftly.

"The territory of the Balkans can be a target of this group, which can find support in other radical groups which are active in the region," Emini told SETimes, adding that an overall engagement of the intelligence and security structures is needed to prevent such an attack.

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Petrit Zogaj of FOL (Speak UP), an NGO in Kosovo, said this problem has already become global.

"The states of the region should start consultations to build joint security policies with special specifics in the anti-terrorist mechanisms," Zogaj told SETimes.

Zogaj added that a good part of those extremists have even disavowed Kosovo statehood, calling them "terrorists who have separated their cause from the cause of the Kosovo society, which is state building and the development of our economy."

What is the greatest threat facing the Balkans? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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