Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kosovo peace mission remains officer’s priority

February 21, 2008

John Davoren

John Davoren

A Lansing resident was on the front lines for the announcement Sunday as Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia.

But Brig. Gen. John Davoren said he wouldn't let the monumental event take his attention away from his mission at hand.

"A lot of folks talk about having the opportunity to be here when a significant event like this occurs," Davoren said. "I've always maintained that we need to be the right people here at the right time so when an announcement occurs, it would be a peaceful announcement."

Davoren, a longtime Lansing resident, is commander of the 35th Infantry Division and Task Force Falcon headquarters involved in a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. For nine years, he said, Kosovo and Serbia have been waiting for the United Nations to make a decision on the status of Kosovo.

"The argument all along was that Serbia does not want to lose control of Kosovo but a majority of the Kosovo population wanted to be independent," he said.

That's where his job came in. He and his troops, which are made of about 1,300 Americans as well as soldiers from countries such as Greece and Ukraine, arrived in Kosovo four months ago. He said they were there to insure and maintain a safe environment for all the residents of Kosovo.

When the announcement occurred Sunday morning, Davoren said much of the Kosovo population was out in the streets celebrating. That was shadowed, however, Monday when the Kosovo-Serbian community staged a protest against the independence resolution.

"Serbia will seek through a number of different ways to try to maintain control," he said.

There are reports, Davoren said, that the Serbian government has instructed its members inside Kosovo to act as if the independence resolution was illegal and to not deal with the new government in any capacity. The protests continued into Tuesday, where Davoren said several vehicles and buildings have been burned. He said he expected similar protests to continue over the next couple days.

Davoren said he couldn't speculate on the future of Kosovo but said he expects more countries to continue to recognize the new nation. When it comes to joining organizations such as the United Nations, Serbia may try to block Kosovo.

"My real focus is what's happening in the community now," he said, adding that he and his troops would continue their mission to maintain peace during their remaining five months in Kosovo.

If there is a problem, we'll deal with it quickly, but the end result should be that there is no violence and families can sleep safely, he said.

Even though independence has been declared, Davoren said his job in Kosovo was not nearly over. As an impartial party, he said he must make sure there is no conflict or violence between Kosovo and Serbia as a result of the independence resolution.

"Even as a new nation Kosovo does not have an army," he said. "And even though they have declared independence, it's still a supervised independence and they are developing into a nation."

Davoren, 54, graduated from Basehor High School in 1971. He then graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree in business from the University of Kansas, and he spent the next seven years on active duty, managing to earn both a Master of Arts degree in personnel management and a Master of Science degree in strategic studies during that time.

Back in Lansing are Davoren's wife, Debra, and two children.

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