Our 'friends' in the Balkans
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 6 2001
While part of the U.S. military is bombing and strafing caves in Afghanistan, determined to root out Osama bin Laden's terror network, in the Balkans, another part of the U.S. military is allied with the Kosovo Liberation Army – which maintains close connections with the al-Qaida network.
War and politics make strange bedfellows.
Long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the KLA has been subverting and destabilizing the nation of Macedonia through a campaign of terror attacks.
You might think U.S. and NATO troops in the area would take a dim view of such activities, given they are supposed to be there on a "peace-keeping" mission.
But that is not the case, according to Yugoslavian and Macedonian sources. NATO has turned a blind eye toward atrocities committed by the KLA.
As recently as 1998, the U.S. State Department recognized the KLA as a terrorist organization. But, during the Clinton administration, it became politically expedient, for whatever reason, for the U.S. and NATO to ally themselves with the KLA.
The KLA's connections to bin Laden were well-known at the time. Yossef Bodansky, author of "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America," documented in his 1999 book and earlier works that the Balkans served as a major staging area for al-Qaida.
Yet, at the time, few in Congress – from either party – raised many objections to Clinton's policies and alliances in the Balkans.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for instance, was quoted as saying: "I don't think we have to do a background check [on the KLA] any more than we did on the Contras [of Nicaragua]."
In other words, why make moral distinctions between people? The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Yet, the precise reason the U.S. had any enemies in the Balkans has never been made clear.
By the way, our "other friends," in Muslim-dominated Bosnia, issued a special passport to bin Laden in 1993, so he could travel freely in the area and help establish his base of operations.
But why is all this history important now?
Because nothing has changed.
The KLA is still playing patty-cake with bin Laden's network. And the U.S. and NATO forces are protecting them.
This despite the fact that bin Laden has been planning terror attacks against U.S. and NATO targets in the Balkans just as surely as the KLA is undermining the stability of the region.
Bodansky writes in his most recent book that Clinton was so concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks on U.S. troops in the Balkans – troops that are still there, I might add – that he sent a special CIA emissary to meet with bin Laden's top lieutenant and strike a deal.
What was the deal?
It was OK with Clinton if bin Laden attacked and overthrew Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt as long as no terrorist assaults were directed against American interests in the Balkans.
Now, get this: According to a report last week in the Halifax Herald the key to unraveling the bin Laden network may not be in Afghanistan at all – but in the Balkans. In July and August, just before the terror attack on the U.S., Albanian guerrillas tied to bin Laden gained control over 30 percent of Macedonia.
The Macedonian military said the guerrillas include veterans of Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya. During a major guerrilla offensive, the Macedonians were able to contain the uprising with helicopter gunships acquired from Ukraine. But shortly after that, the helicopters came under attack from U.S.-made Stinger missiles.
Guess where those weapons came from? You got it. Afghanistan.
Let's not forget that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers had been active in both the Kosovo and Macedonia military campaigns.
"We are presently concentrating on assembling verifiable proof which will assist the CIA in disassembling Osama bin Laden's terrorist network," the deputy director of the Macedonian intelligence service was quoted as saying.
But, listen to this from the Halifax Herald report: "According to Macedonian intelligence operatives, the biggest obstacle to their investigative efforts is political pressure from NATO – including direct interference from the United States."
It seems there may still be a political campaign under way to cover up the mistakes of the past – even at the expense of endangering our own forces on the ground in the Balkans and even at the expense of permitting bin Laden to achieve his goals there.