I’m accustomed to spending quality time in moderate Islamic environments. I lived in the most liberal and cosmopolitan Sunni neighborhood in Beirut next to the American University, and I’ve vacationed with my wife in famously moderate Muslim countries like Tunisia and Turkey. Kosovo surprised even me and forced me to redefine my very conception of what a moderate Muslim even is. Kosovo is so thoroughly modern and secularized that if it weren’t for the mosques on the skyline there would be no visible evidence that Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country at all. Kosovo looks no more religious than France.
The fact that Kosovo even exists is because we were finally forced to step up and do something about the Milosevic regime. I have to give credit to President Bush for not following through on what he intimated in the 2000 campaign and withdrawing from the Balkans. I have to say, also, that John McCain was virtually alone in the Republican caucus for supporting Bill Clinton's intervention in the region, even if it was a bit half-hearted. The problem is, the foreign policy decisions made by Bush and McCain are overwhelmingly in the category of disastrous and counterproductive; with regards to Kosovo, we see a glimmer of something positive. If only they were able to think more clearly, right?
Mr. Totten talks about how the bin Laden influence came to the region in the 1990s:
Around a thousand mujahideen, veteran Arabic fighters from the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, showed up in Bosnia in the mid-1990s to fight a jihad against Serbian Orthodox Christians. They thought they would be welcomed, and they were right. The European community imposed an arms embargo on all of Yugoslavia during the Bosnian civil war which preserved the imbalance of power and arms in favor of Slobodan Milosevic and his nationalist Bosnian Serb comrades in arms. The Bosnian army was multi-ethnic and multi-confessional – it included Serb and Croat Christians as well as Bosniak Muslims – but its leaders chose to accept help from the so-called “Afghan Arabs” because they were desperate.
I don't know how many people are aware of this, but in the hours after the attacks on September 11, 2001, US troops based in the former Yugoslavia went into action almost right away and rounded up as many of these mujahideen as they could. The locals pointed out where they were and members of the 29th Infantry Division, a National Guard unit based on the East Coast, which had sent troops to the region, went into action. They surrounded homes, kicked in doors, and put them into detention before the smoke cleared over Manhattan. I know this because a senior NCO from that unit told me how the raids were carried out--the mujahideen were shocked and surprised and made little or no effort to escape. No one expected the Americans to move so quickly. The 9/11 attacks had caught them flat footed. Thus, the first strike against bin Laden after 9/11 was carried out by citizen soldiers who had been deployed overseas to help protect Muslims from being slaughtered. The irony is they were arresting mujahideen were there do so the exact same thing.