Conflict in the Balkan States is nothing new, reaching back centuries and through countless wars. Following on the heels of Tito’s death in 1980, the collapse and breakup of the former Yugoslavia caused reverberations throughout the region that are still being felt today. A struggle for power to establish new geopolitical boundaries resulted in a series of wars that tore apart the region and created a humanitarian crisis. So great, were some of these conflicts in the 1990s that the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) was established, and additional campaigns were launched by the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) to conduct peacekeeping operations.
Breaking momentary silence following the Gulf War, the conflict in Bosnia in 1992 was the second NATO deployment in the organizations history. The war in Bosnia culminated a series of humanitarian crises that carried on all the way through the end of the millennium. As the ripples of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia continued to reverberate, war broke out between Kosovo Albanians and Yugoslav loyalists (under the flag of Serbia & Montenegro). While tension and armed conflict had long preceded the opening shots of the war, the breakout of hostilities on a grander scale began in February of 1998. By June, NATO peacekeeping operations began in the region as well, with strict no-fly zones established, a series of aggressive air campaigns, and a wealth of humanitarian aid being provided to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). President Bill Clinton issued a state of emergency due to national security threats on 9 June ahead of the opening of NATO operations.
The first bombing campaigns within Serbian territory did not come until the morning hours (local) of 24 March 1999. Over 1,000 aircraft and 80 naval vessels participated in the campaign, including stealthy F-117 Nighthawks. One of these aircraft was downed by Serbian defenses on 27 March by way of observation. Bombing campaigns continued until the war’s conclusion on 11 June. The war had caused the displacement of over 1 million Albanians living in Kosovo. Many of these refugees had been displaced by the earlier conflict in the Bosnian War. Humanitarian operations continued through 2000. Peacekeeping operations remained in place as well, due to continued tension in the region which still exists to this day. The total collapse of Yugoslavia concluded in 2006 with the nations of Serbia and Montenegro breaking out into their own respective nations in June.
Around 12,000 deaths were blamed on the Kosovo War, with many of them simply having been caught in crossfire. The majority of casualties were Kosovar Albanians. Conflict remains in the region to this day, with additional violet clashes occurring in 2000 and 2004, and conflict issues in 2011 thru 2013.
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