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[ALBSA-Info] Pentagon says Albanian evacuation was right action

Gazhebo at Gazhebo at
Tue Jun 26 22:59:15 EDT 2001

Pentagon says Albanian evacuation was right action

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Tuesday stood by a decision 
to send U.S. troops to evacuate ethnic Albanian rebels with their weapons 
from a village in Macedonia, saying the goal had been to defuse a volatile 

It was the first time the U.S. military had taken such an active step in the 
conflict between the government and minority ethnic Albanians in the Balkan 

But a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, said the action did not 
suggest a new U.S. or NATO policy. 

"It was a new event. We've not done this before. But what I'm reluctant to 
predict is this being a harbinger of some major new policy decision and a new 
area of continued activity on the part of U.S. forces," he said. "I do not 
think that is the case." 

The evacuation on Monday sparked riots in the Macedonian capital Skopje by 
ethnic Slavs furious at a cease-fire deal that allowed the U.S. evacuation of 
ethnic Albanian rebels. 

Discussions on using U.S. troops started on Sunday night, including talks 
between NATO Secretary General George Robertson and Supreme Commander Gen. 
Joseph Ralston. 

The evacuation decision was agreed to by NATO, the European Union, the 
Macedonian government and the ethnic Albanian rebels, Quigley said. 

"In this particular case we feel very much that it was the right thing to 
do," he said at a media briefing. 

A U.S. convoy of about 20 vehicles, mostly buses and four armored Humvees 
armed with machine guns, evacuated about 350 ethnic Albanians including about 
100 rebels from the village of Aracinovo to another village 11 miles (18 km) 
away, Quigley said. 

The convoy involved 81 U.S. military personnel and 20 others mainly driving 
the buses, the Pentagon said. 

After the convoy dropped the Albanians off at the village, it took nine hours 
to return to Camp Able Sentry, less than 10 miles (16 km) from Aracinovo, 
because large groups of people, some armed, had gathered at checkpoints. 

When the convoy arrived at the first checkpoint a crowd started to gather 
with weapons, so the U.S. commander decided to seek another route, Quigley 

A Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle was sent to scout ahead on the second route 
and it detected another checkpoint at which a crowd was gathering, he said. 

So the convoy halted and sent the Hunter to search for a third route that was 

The United States was the only country that provided the troops and the 
vehicles for the evacuation because they were immediately available, Quigley 

"Speed was an important element of this operation because of the rising 
tensions and the desire to defuse it as quickly as possible," he said. 

The United States urged Macedonians on Tuesday to pull back from "mob action" 
after riots prompted the Balkan state's president to issue a stark warning on 
the threat of civil war. 

"I want to make clear that we condemn the violence overnight in Skopje. The 
European Union has said the same thing. We join them in that condemnation," 
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a news briefing. 

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