The US will maintain its current troop levels in Kosovo until at least the end of 2009, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. His trip to Kosovo is the first by an American cabinet member since the republic declared independence in February. The move of support is meant to show Russia—which does not recognize Kosovo's independence—that its actions in Georgia have had consequences, writes the New York Times.
Gates will meet with European defense ministers on his trip and is expected to reassure former Communist states that the US supports their attempts to join NATO despite Russian threats. Gates also pledged further military equipment and training for Kosovo, an eager American ally in the former Yugoslavia. The US has 1,600 soldiers stationed in Kosovo, making up about 10% of a NATO peacekeeping force.