So there have been some bombings in Pristina lately. Four or five so far this year. Three of them have been attacks on UN police cars. Nobody's been killed or hurt, but it does have people on edge a little. At least two of the bombings were claimed by a shadowy group calling itself the Kosovo Independence Army. The KIA may or may not be connected to some bandit-like groups of armed men who have been stopping cars in rural Kosovo. Most of these episodes have been in western Kosovo, near the Albanian border -- a region that has always been, ah, difficult to administer. One difference between the past and today, of course, is the presence of nearly 20,000 NATO troops. And NATO does not seem overly concerned. There may be several things at work here.
One, there's a lot of resentment of the UN here... some justified, some not. UNMIK, the UN Mission In Kosovo, has not done a very good job of running the province for the last six years. Economic growth has stalled, the Kosovo passport is not widely welcomed, thousands of people are still missing, Kosovo's political status remains in limob, and Albanians and Serbs still hate each other. On the other hand, the UN inherited a pretty awful situation. And -- insofar as they've had the chance -- the Albanians haven't done a very good job of running Kosovo, either. But fair or not, a lot of Albanians blame the UN. Two, the Albanians got in the habit of blowing things up back in the guerrilla war against the Serbs, 1997-99. The attacks on police cars are suggestive. The Serbian police, corrupt and brutal, were particularly favorite targets for the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) back in the day. And there's no shortage of guns, bombs and explosives all over Kosovo; the KLA brought in plenty, and the local mafias have since brought in more. Three, a lot of Albanians are getting impatient for independence. It's been six and a half years since the NATO bombing ended. How long should they have to wait? They want to be a sovereign nation, and they want it now. This is not a universal sentiment -- I've met patient Albanians, and even one or two who don't think sovereignty is a big deal -- but it's a very common one. Finally, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest a fourth possibility. This is that the "Kosovo Independence Army" is to some extent a creation of some Albanians -- possibly in the government, possibly not -- who want to spook the international community a little. "Oooh, see, men with bombs! Look, there are dangerous radicals out there! Thank goodness you have us moderates to deal with. You'd better give us what we ask for, or... well, who knows what might take our place!" I hate to seem paranoid, but this would hardly be unheard of in this part of the world. What makes me thoughtful is the fact that nobody has been killed (yet). The UN is unpopular, so blowing up the occasional UN cop car doesn't bother people much. But actually killing UN employees... that would be different. And of course it would be a real blow to the Albanian cause internationally. Kosovo does not lack people who know how to kill. So, if the "Kosovo Independence Army" were really trying to kill UN people, there'd be a lot of dead UN people by now. Not that this is much comfort to the average UN employee here in Prishtina.