Secretary of Defense Mattis Responds to Questions on Kosovo

Secretary of Defense James Mattis Responds to U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services about Kosovo, January 12, 2017

Approximately 650 U.S. troops remain in the Balkans as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) that first deployed to Kosovo in 1999 and today is comprised of over 4,600 personnel from 30 countries. What major lines of effort do you think are required to further reduce or eliminate U.S. and NATO presence in Kosovo?

Kosovo is an example of what happens when the international community, led by America, commits itself to the defense of its interests and values. In general, I would recommend reductions commensurate with the security situation on the ground, but my understanding is that, at present, the Force remains critical to ensuring the stability of the region. Moreover, before it would be prudent to reduce the U.S. military presence, the Kosovo Security Forces must receive a mandate to conduct domestic security and territorial defense, a shift that will require constitutional change with parliamentary support.

In your view, can the European Union play a more significant role in Kosovo?

Yes. The efforts of the European Union are essential to the economic and political development of Kosovo and its stability, and its further involvement ought to be encouraged. It already plays a significant role in Kosovo by brokering the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo through the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. The dialogue allows both countries to move forward with plans for membership in the European Union, with the understanding that recognition of Kosovo’s sovereignty by Serbia will be addressed before actual membership accession. Additionally, the European Union helps contribute to stability in Kosovo through the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo.

Complete transcript of the testimony is available (in PDF) at the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services website .