Slobodan Milosevic's trial in the Hague is a timely reminder of just how devastating terroristic violence can be. President Bush may or may not have been careless in portraying Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an ``axis of evil,'' but he was correct in pointing out the many hidden links in the global terrorist chain. Within that chain Balkan terrorism remains a small but vital link, one which has continued to flourish right under the eyes of NATO and the UN.
Osama bin Laden established his presence in the region through a series of so-called ``humanitarian" organizations in Bosnia and Albania sometime around 1994. Some of the fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia during the Balkan wars included mujahedeen from many countries who had trained in Afghanistan. Local terrorist centers were also important. Indeed, in Albania terrorists were trained on the property of former Albanian President Sali Berisha near the town of Tropoje.
Beyond this powerful hint of local support for terrorists, there was an economic infrastructure. Two tons of heroin per month passed from Asia to Europe through Kosovo during the rule of Slobodan Milosevic. Instead of diminishing since Milosevic's fall, drug smuggling has increased. Last year, five tons of heroin was smuggled through the lands now overseen by the United Nations and NATO. Interpol says that Albanian gangs now control 70% of heroin trafficking in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia.
Cooperation over the last few years between the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), the NATO-led multinational Kosova Force (KFOR), and local governments - boosted by the arrival of a democratic government in Serbia - has cut down the number of terrorist attacks in Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Yet this cooperation has failed to stymie the fusion of terrorist and criminal activity. Indeed, due to the wealth of terrorist groups engaged in drug dealing, Erhard Busek, the Coordinator of the EU's Stability Pact for the former Yugoslavia, thinks that the chance of peace in Macedonia will be a mere 50% once this winter's snows thaw.