USA

Bill Clinton Honoured 20 Years After End Of Kosovo War

A 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended the 1998-99 conflict, which saw more than 10,000 people killed.

Bill Clinton receives Kosovo Presidential Medal of Freedom from Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci (Picture: Hashim Thaci/Twitter).

Former US President Bill Clinton has been awarded the Freedom of Order for his role in helping end Kosovo's war 20 years ago.

Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci thanked Mr Clinton for his contribution to laying the "founding stone of this freedom".

Mr Clinton, Madeleine Albright - who is the former US Secretary of State - and other international politicians are in Kosovo to attend a ceremony marking 20 years since NATO troops were deployed there.

They helped stop a bloody Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian nationalists in Kosovo, then a province of Serbia.

A 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended the 1998-99 conflict, which saw more than 10,000 people killed.

Mr Clinton and Ms Albright were instrumental in getting the NATO campaign approved, and both oversaw the Kosovo-Serbia peace deal after the war.

Kosovo troop deployment.
At its peak, up to 50,000 NATO personnel were deployed to Kosovo, 200 of whom died for the mission.

On 12 June 1999, NATO troops started to make their way into Kosovo.

Before first light, British paratroopers from 5th Airborne Brigade and personnel from the Gurkha Rifles had started crossing over the border from Macedonia.

British Chinook and US Apache helicopters followed, while on the ground soldiers from 4 Armoured Brigade lined up in convoy.

It was the start of one of the biggest military deployments since the Second World War.  

For the past year, Kosovo had been at the centre of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic spearheaded attacks against all non-Serbs, in particular, Kosovo Albanians.

Chinook Kosovo deployment.
Kosovo had been at the centre of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

NATO stepped in – conducting 77 days of airstrikes against the Serbian regime – before Milosevic agreed to withdraw his troops.  

This deployment, Operation Joint Guardian, was to provide a security force or KFOR to the region.

Personnel from more than 30 countries were deployed - led by Sir Mike Jackson, then commander of the task force.

NATO troops roll into Kosovo.
Up to 13,000 people are believed to have been killed or missing, the majority of them Kosovo Albanians, while millions more were displaced.

On arrival, personnel quickly set about securing access, clearing roads littered with landmines.

Homes, businesses, farms and livestock had been destroyed after months of targeted ethnic persecution. 

As the vehicles rolled in, the signs of human tragedy became more visible with every step.  

British and Norwegian special forces were the first troops to enter Pristina but, unbeknown to NATO, Russian forces had beaten them to it, arriving first at the city’s airport. 

Tornado Kosovo deployment.
Operation Joint Guardian was to provide a security force or KFOR to the region.

They were ordered to leave, NATO’s supreme commander Wesley Clark called for troops to forcibly prevent Russian reinforcement, a move rejected by General Mike Jackson at the time.

At its peak, up to 50,000 NATO personnel were deployed to Kosovo, 200 of whom died for the mission.

Now, just some 3,500 personnel remain.