General Ninoslav Krstic, former commander of the Joint Security Forces that entered the buffer zone between Serbia and Kosovo in 2001, after the end of the armed uprising in south Serbia, said changes to the length of military service gave the VSCG no choice but to replace soldiers in the border zone with professionals.
"This has come to the fore now, as the length of recruits' military training has been shortened from 12 to nine months.You cannot train soldiers sufficiently in nine months," he
Another reason for the changeover to a purely professional force, Krstic
added, were more frequent fatal incidents involving young recruits.
"This is strongly affecting army morale and its image in society," he
said."A tragedy is always a tragedy but the public perception is different if a professional soldier, paid for his
work, gets killed in an incident."
Since the armed conflict between Albanian rebels and Serbian forces in the region ended in May 2001, the situation has been quiet, though it has worsened since January 7, when the army shot dead a 16-year-old Albanian, Dasnim Hajrullahu, as he
attempted to illegaly cross the border.
was justified in reinforcing the VSCG in the region."This year is very important, as the beginning of talks on the final status of Kosovo have been scheduled for 2005," he
said the army would need to invest a lot of effort to defend its legitimate right to protect the country's own security against a background of criticism from local Albanians.
"All army members must protect all citizens of the Republic of Serbia in the region, irrespective of their national or religious background," he