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Friday, 24 August, 2001, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
US plays supporting role in Macedonia
US troops in Macedonia
US forces will provide logistical support to Nato
By Defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus in Washington

It is mid-summer in Washington and stories are few and far between, but Nato's Macedonia deployment is still not making the headlines.

For one thing, it is a relatively small operation of limited duration.

If the Macedonia operation drags on, or if the Nato troops there run in to serious trouble, then the US may have to reconsider the level of its involvement

But above all, no new US troops are involved on the ground.

Washington has given strong backing to the peace deal in Macedonia, brokered by European Union and Nato negotiators.

But with the mood at the Pentagon and in the White House against further overseas entanglements, the US is not eager for a high-profile involvement.

Important role

Nonetheless several hundred US troops already based in Kosovo and Macedonia will have an important role.

The US is providing some logistical and intelligence support.

British soldiers in Macedonia
The overwhelming bulk of the British-led force is European
It is providing casualty evacuation helicopters and putting its hospital facilities at its main Kosovo base, Camp Bondsteel, at the disposal of the Macedonia operation.

In large part, the US is playing a purely supporting role, but its peacekeeping troops in Kosovo could become involved.

If Nato wants to establish weapons collection points on the Kosovo-Macedonia border, then, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said, American troops might be used to supervise them.

Kosovo arms

Clearly, the continuing Nato operation in Kosovo is closely related to what is happening in Macedonia.

Many Albanian rebel fighters have sought to cross into Kosovo and probably have arms dumps there.

Nato has placed a considerable effort on the ground to try to seal this border, though the nature of the terrain makes this difficult.

Nato will be trying to stop Albanian fighters from turning in one set of weapons and then coming across into Kosovo for more.

Here, the US will play a significant role.

Division of labour

But the overwhelming bulk of the British-led force that is moving into Macedonia is European.

And this division of labour is something that the Americans will welcome.

They still have thousands of troops deployed in the Balkans, in Bosnia and Kosovo.

And they are not in the market to send any more, especially when a full-scale strategic review is underway.

That is not going to worry the Nato allies much.

They, too, know the score and understand the domestic constraints in Washington.

But if the Macedonia operation drags on, or if the Nato troops there run into serious trouble, then the US may have to reconsider the level of its involvement.

Even then it would probably be a question of redeploying forces already on the ground in the Balkans.

Key stories



See also:

23 Aug 01 | Europe
Troops pour into Macedonia
23 Aug 01 | Europe
Nato brings hope to Macedonia
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Is Nato's mission impossible?
17 Aug 01 | Europe
Macedonia mission 'too short'
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