I was going to do that second post on independent Kosovo. But I discovered that you can't understand internal Kosovar politics without understanding UCK. (UCK is the Albanian name for the KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army.) And UCK is complicated and interesting enough to deserve a post of its own. But it's longish, and all history, so I'm putting it below the flip. Skip it if this stuff doesn't interest you.
UCK started small. Back in the mid-'90s, it was just a few dozen angry guys. It wasn't very well organized, and they didn't have weapons beyond a few guns. Some were Yugoslav Army vets, some had fought in Bosnia and Croatia, and some had received training at a secret camp in Albania (about which more later), but we're not talking Green Berets here. Angry guys with basic guerrilla training and some guns. They started off by attacking the police. This made sense because, after 1989, the Albanian police had been replaced by ethnic Serbs. The Albanian population hated the Serb police, seeing them as brutal and corrupt. (I can't easily judge how much of this is true, but I think the closest analogy, from an American POV, would be the bad old days when all-white police forces were patrolling all-black urban neighborhoods. If you're old enough to remember Rodney King? Think a Rodney King riot every week or so. (Additionally, the Albanians say that the Serb cops were grossly corrupt -- thieves and bullies who were much more interested in holding up Albanians for bribes than in keeping order. Hard to judge at this distance, though at least some foreign eyewitnesses agree.) So the early KLA/UCK started off shooting at cops. And they killed a few of them. But it didn't do them much good. There were plenty of underemployed Serbs willing to work as cops in Kosovo, and the Albanian population just wasn't ready to rise up yet. We're talking 1996, 1997 here: most of the Kosovar Albanians were still sticking with Ibrahim Rugova and his nonviolent resistance. I think this was less from inherent Albanian pacifism than from a sense that the Serbs were too strong to fight, but whatever the reason, few people were willing to take their chances with UCK. Another problem they faced was the clannish and fissiparous nature of traditional Albanian society. In some ways, this helped them... fierce family and village loyalties made it very hard for the Serbs to get good information on UCK. But, on the other hand, it also meant that there were constant divisions and crosscurrents. Almost as soon as UCK formed, they were killing other Albanians (allegedly for collaborating with the Serbs). Soon after that, they were being framed for killing other Albanians. The Serbs were perfectly happy to blame violent deaths on UCK "terrorists". So, soon you had people dying who may or may not have been "collaborators", and who may or may not have been killed by UCK, and who UCK might or might not take credit for killing -- in pretty much every possible combination. It got pretty murky, and the net result was not a groundswell of public approval for the men of UCK. But they kept at it, and after a while they had some breaks. In 1997 Albania -- then under the erratic and not particularly competent rule of President Sali Berisha -- collapsed into utter chaos. A pyramid scheme caused most of the country's savings to disappear overnight. The economy imploded, and the population rose up in massive and destructive riots. The Albanian police couldn't possibly handle it. So Berisha called on the army... and the army simply shrugged and walked away. Berisha had been starving the armed forces for years, and had packed the upper ranks with cronies and incompetents. The officer corps loathed him, and the common soldiers were so poor and hungry that joining the rioters made much more sense than shooting them. Berisha ended up being forced out of office. (Though not for good. He just got back in, after an eight year hiatus, in August of this year.) One interesting side effect: the soldiers left the state armories unguarded, and the population quite thoroughly sacked and looted them. Hundreds of thousands of rifles, AK-47s and grenades, and milllions of rounds of ammunition, fell into private hands. For months afterward, you could walk into any open-air market in Albania and -- in between the spinach and the pumpkins -- buy AK-47s for $20 each. This had significant effects on Kosovo. Up until the autumn of 1997, UCK was still just a couple of hundred angry guys, still poorly armed and equipped. They were killing the occasional policeman, but were in no way a threat to Belgrade's power. But after the Albanian riots, three things changed. One, most obviously, UCK suddenly had access to a lot more weapons. Two, they had a secure haven, sort of, across the border. Northern Albania was hit hardest by the anarchy, and didn't really recover for years. From '97 until well after 2000, it was a lawless region run by local gangsters and clan lords. UCK/KLA could move back and forth across the border, and bring in supplies, and the Albanian government couldn't stop them even if it wanted to. (I mentioned the Albanian training camp. Sali Berisha seems to have been of two minds about resistance in Kosovo. It appears that he wanted a resistance there, if only to distract the Serbs. But he didn't want armed Kosovars running loose in Albania. So, he set up a training camp... but also periodically busted UCK's leaders and threw them into Albanian jail for a little while, just to get the point across. (This actually seems to have worked. But once Berisha went down, the new government had almost no control over the wild North of Albania, and UCK could do as it pleased.) Three, it helped shake the Kosovars loose from Rugova. For years, they'd been secretly dreaming that Albania would come to their rescue. After all, it was a real country, with an army and everything! Seeing the Albanian state collapse, and the Albanian army disintegrate like wet paper, helped convince ordinary Kosovars that they'd have to help themselves. The net result of this was that UCK was able to drastically expand its operations in autumn and winter of 1997. And the result of /that/was that, starting in March 1998, the Serbian state responded with ever more brutal and heavy-handed crackdowns... massacres, burning villages, you name it. This led directly to the Drenica massacre of Adem Jashari and his family, which caused support for UCK to explode yet again. By autumn 1998 there were roughly twenty _thousand_ UCK/KLA fighters in Kosovo, and the Serbs, increasingly desperate, were on their way to full-blown ethnic cleansing. By this time UCK had become a serious guerrilla force. They had codes and procedures, a radio station and a news agency, offices, officers, and a general staff. They had Kosovo divided into seven operational zones. (Students of Yugoslav history may find some of this strangely familiar. Deliberately or not, by 1998-99 the KLA bore more than a passing resemblance to Tito's WWII Partisans. Not too surprising, when you consider that everyone in Yugoslavia grew up watching Partisan war movies and reading about Partisan campaigns in school.) All of this required money, and some of that money came from pretty dubious sources: drug dealing, smuggling, human trafficking and forced prostitution. This is because by 1998, Albanian "clans" had pushed out older Italian and Turkish gangs in the heroin and cocaine trade all over Europe. (Some of these clans evolved directly out of the old Albanian Communist Secret Police, the Sigurimi. When Communism fell in Albania, the Sigurimi simply shifted gears and almost overnight converted themselves into Europe's newest organized crime family.) Many of the "clans" were major contributors to the KLA. And there's little doubt that the KLA leadership knew where this money was coming from. On the other hand, there's also little doubt that the KLA itself wasn't in the drug business. The clans might be willing to support the KLA in the name of Albanian freedom, but they would have never let it take over any of their territory or profits. The KLA received donations from drug lords, but it does not seem to have peddled drugs itself... not because of moral scruples, but because that niche was already occupied. The drug money was only part of the flow of cash. Albanians in the diaspora also contributed millions. The "Homeland Calling" fund, operating in Europe and America, raised huge amounts of cash for the KLA; diasporids also purchased guns, radios, and other supplies as needed. So, by the time of the NATO bombing, the KLA was a fully mature and functional guerrilla organization. And in its own eyes, it was the legitimate government of Kosovo before ever the first NATO soldier crossed the border. This would have consequences for the subsequent history of Kosovo.