Why Does Camp Bondsteel Still Exist?
Camp Bondsteel was constructed to house American peacekeeping forces soon after Kosovo achieved independence from Serbia in 1999. It can hold up to 7000 soldiers, which makes it the largest US base in the Balkans, and employs hundreds of locals. The post exchange is the largest military shopping complex in southeastern Europe with everything found at Wal-Mart, and the U.S. military spends millions of dollars each year to ship all items from the USA. The base also has the best hospital in Kosovo, a movie theater, three gyms, two recreation buildings that have phones, computers with internet, pool tables, and video games. It has a chapel with various religious services, a huge dining facility, a library, a fire station, a military police station, an education center where college classes are offered, two cappuccino bars, a Burger King, a Taco Bell, an Anthony's Pizzeria, a barber shop, a laundry facility, a sewing shop, and a Thai massage parlor.
The Kosovo mission was successful, and there is no longer violence, except for occasional squabbles in the North that are easily handed by other NATO forces. Only 1400 American soldiers remain at Bondsteel, who are National Guardsmen rotated there for a one-year tour. Since it costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year to operate Camp Bondsteel, why does it still exist? It has little value as a regional base since it lacks an airstrip with aircraft hangars; it just has several helicopter pads. It has no port or rail facilities nor ammunition storage igloos or warehouses. It is only 955 acres with no training areas or firing ranges. It's best described as a luxurious prison camp, where American soldiers are sentenced to one-year of service, and kill time by driving around the area armed with pistols.
The USA has no vital national interests in Kosovo. The U.S. military recently established an expeditionary base in nearby Romania with a ports and support facilities in case something flares up in the region. Some have speculated that Bondsteel remains to guard a natural gas pipeline to Europe, but guard it from what? If this were a problem, soldiers from the European Union can fill that role. American leaders have expressed disappointment at limited NATO participation in American adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. If a peacekeeping force is truly needed at Camp Bondsteel for decades, that is an ideal role for neighboring NATO nations, who can fly in reinforcements within hours. American soldiers remain there because the base generates millions of dollars in profits for American contractors, and Army Generals never close a base unless political leaders demand it. The U.S. Army should leave Camp Bondsteel immediately. If a NATO ally does not want to move in, it can be mothballed for future NATO use. American National Guardsmen are needed for peacekeeping missions within the USA.
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com