april 1999 (oorspronkelijk 21 september 1998)
Kosovo: how Germany backed KLA
As the exodus of Kosovar refugees continues after the failed guerrilla offensive by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), substantial evidence is coming to light that German secret diplomacy has been instrumental in helping the KLA since its inception in February 1996.
The government of Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor, has officially supported the western line of seeking to persuade Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslavian president, to end his violent incursion into Kosovo and enter negotiations with the rebellious Albanian majority in the province. But behind the scenes it is understood that the German civil and military intelligence services have been involved in training and equipping the rebels, with the aim of cementing German influence in the Balkan area and tackling the refugee problem. Germany is the principal target destination for refugees from the Balkans and the influx has become a matter of serious political controversy. Significantly, the so-called government of the Kosovo Republic in exile is based in Germany, where approximately 400,000 Kosovars now live.
Arming the Kosovar militants who seek independence from Serbia has led to a serious rift between the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German intelligence service, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, according to French diplomatic sources. Pierre-Marie Gallois, a retired French general and a specialist in geopolitics, believes that there was a definite wish within some circles of German decision-makers to destabilise the Serbs. He told The European: "The Kosovo crisis has initiated a divorce between Germany and the United States. Washington realised that pushing the Kosovars towards a military confrontation with Milosevic, as the Germans wanted to do, would have a boomerang effect on the Balkans.
"The United States put maximum pressure on Germany to stop supporting the KLA behind the scenes, as did the other European countries such as Britain and France."
Germany has traditionally been anti-Serb and anti-Milosevic in particular: it was the first country to recognise an independent Croatia before the Bosnian war. It is now attempting to define a new role for itself in the Balkan region, which it regards as vital to its interests. The birth of the KLA in 1996 coincided with the appointment of Hansjoerg Geiger as the new head of the BND. One of his first operational decisions was to set up one of the largest BND regional stations in Tirana, the Albanian capital. BND agents co-operated closely with the leaders of the Shik, the Albanian secret service. The Shik was the successor to the Sigurimi, the feared communist-era security service, many of whose agents are still active. The BND men were in charge of selecting recruits for the KLA command structure form the 500,000 Kosovars in Albania. At the same time the BND bureau in Rome was asked to provide a political intelligence back-up, including working among refugees in Trieste and Bari, two of the principal entry points into Italy for Albanian refugees. The German Militaerabschirmdienst (MAD), the military intelligence arm, and special commandos such as the Kommando Spezialkraefte (KSK) are also understood to have been involved in training and the provision of communications equipment. Reporters covering the Kosovo conflict, which was unleashed when Milosevic sent police and special forces into the province earlier this year to suppress the KLA, were surprised to find that some of the KLA fighters wore Bundeswehr combat jackets with identifiable insignia, even in front of television cameras.
The MAD also provided the Albanians with phone-tapping and communication systems used by the Stasi, the former East-German communist secret police. Some of this material has filtered through to Albanian-trained Kosovar guerrillas. Weapons from former East Germany have been smuggled into Albania by the German services for use by the rebels, according to Dr Erich Schmidt-Enboom, a Munich-based intelligence specialist. The black-uniformed KSK elite troops, previously active in Bosnia tracking down Serbian War Criminals, have been involved in training commandos in northern Albania - still controlled by supporters of Sali Berisha, the former Albanian president - according to French intelligence sources. Tomislav Kersovic, a member of the Belgrade-based institute for geopolitical studies, suggests that the finances to subsidise the training were provided through an Albanian foundation known as "The Fatherland's Call", with branches in Duesseldorf, Bonn, Stockolm, Bern and other European Capitals.