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TETOVO, Macedonia - Last Monday, international envoys and government officials in Macedonia hammered out a last-minute peace accord. However, this 11th-hour attempt to avoid yet another Balkans civil war may yet prove to be a case of too little, too late, as the fighting here continues to escalate.
Under the terms of the agreement, once a solid ceasefire can be established, a NATO force of some 3,000 peacekeepers, including a whopping three Canadian officers, will be deployed in Macedonia. The major task of these troops will be to disarm the ethnic Albanian guerrillas who have established control of nearly 30 per cent of Macedonia's territory.
For the battered Macedonian security forces that have fought the guerrillas over the past six months, the arrival of the NATO force will be a bitter pill to swallow.
"If NATO hadn't been arming and equipping the (guerrillas) in Kosovo there would be no need for them to disarm these guerrillas now in Macedonia," said Goran Stevanovic, a sergeant with the elite Macedonian police Wolves.
At the diplomatic level, the provision of military aid to the guerrillas is vehemently denounced, but on the ground in Macedonia, there is no denying the massive amount of materiel and expertise supplied by NATO to the guerrillas. Their commanders welcomed me with a shout of "God bless America, and Canada, too, for all that they have provided to us!"
In the well-built guerrilla bunkers overlooking the besieged city of Tetovo, there is ample evidence of U.S. military hardware. Everything from sidearms and sniper rifles to menacing-looking grenade launchers is emblazoned Made in the USA.
An abundant stock of sophisticated night-vision goggles provide the guerrillas with a tremendous tactical advantage over the Macedonian security forces. By nightfall, the Macedonians are compelled to hole up in their bunkers while the guerrillas roam with impunity throughout the Tetovo streets.
Snake Arifaj, a 22-year-old guerrilla platoon commander, proudly displayed his unit's impressive arsenal and said, "Thanks to Uncle Sam, the Macedonians are no match for us."
Two weeks ago, there was a flurry of diplomatic protests filed by the Macedonian government when two U.S. helicopters were observed delivering supplies to an Albanian village in the mountains above Tetovo. Officially, the U.S. claimed their aircraft were only transporting humanitarian aid.
However, the local guerrilla commander, Commander "Mouse," a 47-year-old UCK officer in the Tetovo sector contradicted this statement and confirmed that two US Chinook Heavy Transport Helicopters had in fact delivered "heavy mortars and ammunition" to the guerrillas. As proof of Mouse's claim, on Thursday the guerrillas began bombarding Tetovo with 120-mm and 82-mm mortars. Judging from the duration and intensity of the bombardment that I witnessed, ammunition supply is not a problem for the guerrillas.
"We have all the equipment and men we need to capture Skopje in 24 hours," said Commander "Jimmy", a 22-year-old Albanian guerrilla who is already a veteran of Chechnya, Kosovo, and south Serbia. "Militarily, the Macedonians are no match for our soldiers."
The U.S. also frequently used their tactical helicopters to gather intelligence inside Macedonia, without authorization from the Macedonian government. The sight of the U.S. choppers prompted the ethnic Albanian villagers to cheer wildly, waving their arms to encourage "their" air force.
Further illustration of this Albanian sentiment toward U.S. aircraft can be found at the guerrilla brigade headquarters, just outside Tetovo. Here the security platoon wear T-shirts emblazoned with a Nike logo and the words: "NATO Air - Just Do It!"
On the other side of this conflict, the woefully equipped Macedonian forces have been hard pressed to field a credible fighting force. In order to obtain a peaceful secession from Yugoslavia in 1992, the fledgling Republic of Macedonia agreed to turn over all the federal military assets to Serbia / Montenegro. As a result of their bankrupt treasury and slumping economy, Macedonia did not put a priority on re-equipping an army. However, once the Albanian guerrillas began their insurgency in March of this year, the Macedonians had no choice but to rapidly enhance their tiny security forces.
Over the past six months, there has been a tremendous infusion of modern weaponry (and mercenary "advisers") into Macedonia, with the bulk of support coming from Ukraine.
At the height of last week's fighting, both George Robertson and Javier Solana - respectively the NATO and European Union secretary generals - made personal entreaties to Ukraine to cut off this vital military aid.
Given such interference, it's little wonder that the Macedonian majority have staged violent anti-NATO riots, attacking embassies and McDonald's restaurants over the past several weeks.
In the past, Canadian soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the Balkans have won a hard-earned reputation from all factions for their fairness and impartiality. However, after the 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and now through the provision of illicit aid to the guerrillas, Canada's foreign ministry is steadily eroding that trust. When, or if, those three Canadians deploy into wartorn Macedonia, it will no doubt dishearten them to know that the death and destruction that they encounter was aided and abetted by their own government.
(c) Scott Taylor Esprit de Corps Magazine
Further reading on Macedonia -
WHAT NATO OCCUPATION WOULD MEAN FOR MACEDONIANS
'Western Media Demonizes Macedonia'
VIRGINIA, BUT THEY ARE NATO TROOPS, NOT 'REBELS'"
"'WE DENIED TRAINING THE KLA? OH. WE LIED.'"
"MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT ACCUSES U.S., GERMANY"
GERMAN PAPER CHARGES: U.S. HAS 'ADVISORS' AMONG
BEHIND KLA STRATEGY IN THE BALKANS?"
'HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH' IS GUNNING FOR MACEDONIA" by
"Laughs" and "Chuckles" in State Dept.
THE MILITARY OCCUPATION OF MACEDONIA
WASHINGTON BEHIND TERRORIST ASSAULTS IN
NATO Macedonian Aptitude Test
Defend Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
from Lies and Terror! Statement
by the Committee to Defend Milosevic, issued by a Working
Committee meeting in Belgrade.
AT WAR IN MACEDONIA"
"TERRORIST 'REBELS' THREATEN CATASTROPHIC CRIMES IN MACEDONIA" This article is related to the call for help from the Macedonian town of KUMANOVO (posted below). Humanitarian terrorists are threatening to unleash eco-disaster. Can be read at http://emperors-clothes.com/mac/poisin.htm
MACEDONIANS HELD HOSTAGE BY ALBANIAN TERRORISTS"
IN MACEDONIA: FACTS AND FICTIONS"
AGAINST SERBIA IS NO CRIME"
"GENTLE REIGN: WASHINGTON MAKES IT PERFECTLY
CLEAR IN KOSOVO & MACEDONIA"
"KLA ATTACKS EVERYONE. MEDIA ATTACKS...
"'WE DENIED TRAINING THE KLA? OH. WE LIED.'"
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