Courtesy Reuters

Kosovo's Next Masters?

INSIDE THE KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY

The rumbles of yet another nationalist earthquake are shaking the former Yugoslavia. Rising from the fetid hovels of Pristina and the concrete-block family farms of rural Kosovo is the newest political and military force to beset the Balkans -- the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), known to Albanians as the Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves.

The emergence of this militant armed group, now numbering several thousand fighters, has dimmed hopes that even a compromise agreement with Belgrade could be successfully implemented. Emboldened by NATO's March bombing of the Serbian military, the KLA will wage a protracted guerrilla war in the Serbian province that could ignite a wider war in neighboring Macedonia and Albania, potentially even dragging in Greece and Bulgaria. The KLA is uncompromising in its quest for an independent Kosovo now and a Greater Albania later. And it has, to the consternation of Washington's would-be peacemakers, supplanted the ineffectual leadership of the moderate voice of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, Ibrahim Rugova.

The KLA is important out of all proportion to its size -- not merely because it will probably eventually get Kosovo to secede from Serbia, but because it now represents the aspirations of most Kosovar Albanians. To understand the current conflict in Kosovo and America's stakes in its resolution, one must understand the KLA, how it came into being, who leads it, what drives it, and why it now speaks for a majority of Kosovars. Even a truly vicious, Bosnia-like wave of atrocities by the Serbs in reprisal for NATO's attacks will only pour fuel on the separatist fire. The grim reality is that we had better get to know the KLA -- because it is not going to go away.

THE NEW RADICALS

Kosovo's Albanians have grown increasingly embittered. By attempting to include the KLA in the peace process that began in February at the French chateau of Rambouillet, the Western alliance is working feverishly -- even as it bombs the Serbs -- to blunt

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