The Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA (Albanian: Ushtria Ēlirimtare e Kosovės, or UĒK) was an Albanian guerilla army which sought the liberation of North Albania (intl. Kosovo) from Yugoslav occupation in the late 1990s and its unification with West Albania (intl. Albania).
Kosovo Liberation Army
(Ushtria Ēlirimtare e Kosovės)
Active: 1981 - 1999
Leaders: Ramush Haradinaj, Agim Ēeku, Hashim Thaēi,
Area of operations: North Albania (intl. Kosovo)
Became: TMK (Trupat Mbrojtėse tė Kosovės)
Allies: Albania, NATO
KLA troops march on the streets of Prishtina on
September 18, 1999 during a last parade organized
before the deadline for the army's demilitarization
as agreed with the NATO-led KFOR force.
KLA's campaign against the Yugoslav occupational regime led to the Albanian-Yugoslav War of 1998-1999 (Also known as "Kosovo War"). Before and during the war the Yugoslav regime prompted an exodus of civilian Albanians and a refugee crisis that eventually caused NATO to intervene militarily in order to stop what was widely identified (by NATO nations, human rights organizations, the EU, and western media) as an ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing. 
The conflict ended with the victory of KLA and NATO, and after international pressure the UN took over the administration and political process, including local institution-building and the determination of the final status of the region.
The origins of the KLA are rooted in the political movement born after the end of WWII, when North Albania (Kosovo Province) was cut from the rest Albania and fell under Yugoslav communist occupation. The movement reached its peak with the massive demonstrations of 1981, when Albanian students, youth and the general population expressed their determination to freedom, but were violently suppressed by the occupational communist Yugoslav regime. Even though the participants of these demonstrations in 1981 were arrested by the Yugoslavs, or fled from the country, they did not retreat in the forecoming years. As political refugees in Europe and as survivors within the country, during the 19811990 decade they formed several political organizations that fought under the banner of liberation of occupied territories and national unification, whereas they would later be the core of the future army. 
The KLA's historical development was thus conducted in four main phases. 
First Phase (1981 1990)
The First Phase consisted in a condensation of strategies for the liberation of North Albania (intl. Kosovo). Following numerous peaceful attempts after political mobilization, armed conflict became a necessity. Doctors, teachers, and other educated leaders expelled by the Yugoslav government in the 70s and 80s became unit commanders of the guerrilla force. Its program was to create an Albanian National Republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia through armed resistance and to eventually join with rest Albania.
Second Phase (spring 1991 February 1998)
The Second Phase consisted in the actual organization of small guerrilla units and the start of armed activity against the Yugoslav forces. In 1991 a group of Albanian nationalists from North Albania (intl. Kosovo), Switzerland and other countries, under the leadership of Adem Jashari, were trained for guerilla resistance. Adem Jashari was the first to create the Drenica Group and in 1992 he started his first military actions.
On April the 5th 1993, a landmark meeting was held with the fighters of all guerrilla units and political activists. Adem Jashari concluded that all actions were to be carried out under the name of the "Kosovo Army" (Ushtria e Kosovės). It was in this meeting that Adem Jashari was appointed General Commander of the army, which during autumn 1994 was renamed to "Kosovo Liberation Army - KLA" (Ushtria Ēlirimtare e Kosovės - UĒK).
In February 1996 the KLA undertook a series of attacks against targets that included police stations and Yugoslav government offices in Western Kosovo. The Yugoslav authorities denounced it as a "terrorist organization" and increased the number of security forces in the region, thereby also boosting the support of the KLA among the population.
KLA's first public appearance in military uniforms came in November 28th 1997 during the burial ceremony of Halit Geci, a teacher from Llausha-Skėnderaj, killed by Yugoslav police structures. Present, at this ceremony, dressed in the uniform of the KLA, were the future commanders and fighters Rexhep Selimi, Mujė Krasniqi and Daut Haradinaj.
In February-March 1998, Adem Jashari with his military unit, took under KLA control the Drenica region. Numerous Yugoslav military and police forces, equipped with armored vehicles and heavy artillery, attacked Drenica. Adem Jashari decided to make a stand and fought for three days and nights along with all members of his family (parents, brother, women and children) who renounced moving away from their land. They fought until all 56 of them - men, women and children, from age of 9 to 74 years old - fell in battle against a superior-armed enemy.
Third Phase (March 1998 September 1998)
The Third Phase broke out immediately after the heroic death of Adem Jashari's family, when the KLA in an outburst of national fervor grew rapidly and expanded in all the regions of North Albania (intl. Kosovo).
During this phase the KLA liberated many zones, formed its strategic bases, armed itself, created regular divisions and trained them in newly erected military centers. In spring-summer 1998, the KLA took control of the main strategic road axes in Central Kosovo. The Yugoslav military and police forces were forced to retreat within the major cities positioning themselves in urban landscape.
KLA Commander Selimi
Diplomatic efforts with the international factor saw result in the meeting held between American diplomat Richard Holbrook with KLA,in Junik, an act that marked the recognition of this Albanian army by the US and thereafter by the EU. The international recognition was made official in the International Conference for Kosovo, in Rambuille, France, where the KLA took the leading role in the Albanian delegation.
Following these, a large scale Yugoslav offensive in AugustSeptember 1998 caused the KLA drawbacks and retreats, from parts of previously liberated zones, to mountain areas. The Yugoslav military in a desperate move and typical of Serbian actions in the past, moved into villages and urban zones as Rahovec, Malishevė, etc. where they massacred civilians, burned down and destroyed inhabited areas, in a final move to kill and expatriate as many people as possible, in order to instill fear among the population in the rest areas, and to undermine popular support to KLA.
Fourth Phase (October 1998 June 1999)
KLA recruiting in Llapashtica region. 1998
KLA recruiting in Malisheva region.
Members of the KLA Brigade 136
KLA Special Unit "Black Tigers". 1998
KLA troops advance against Yugoslav Army. 1998
The Fourth Phase started after the Yugoslav offensive, when the KLA after experiencing serious hits, was not destroyed, as was the goal officially declared by the Yugoslav regime while killing civilians, but instead outgrew its numbers and reorganized swiftly into bigger formations with a new central command structure and training organization.
KLA post. 1998
At this point the KLA established a General Staff (Shtabi i Pėrgjithshėm) of between 16-20 members and divided Kosovo into 7 military operational zones, commanded semi-independently by Local Commanders operating under pseudonyms. The size of the KLA at this point according to its Spokesman Jakup Krasniqi, was over 30,000 men strong, while independent estimates ranged up to 50,000 men.
The KLA also established a political arm, the Political Directorate (Drejtoria Politike), led by prominent independence activist Hashim Thaēi. Strategic bases, the Supreme Headquarters, hospitals, Radio Kosova e Lirė and Kosovapress News Agency were stationed and defended in the Berisha Mountains.
Obligatory enlisting started parallel to the voluntary enlisting by order of the Supreme Headquarters. Among those answering the call for voluntarily participation were also a considerable number of Albanian youth living and working in Western European countries, the US and elsewere. The Atlantic Division was also formed in US by Albanian emigrés, which, after training and armament, entered the fighting in the Koshare and Pashtrik fronts.
The KLA built and made use of training camps and bases in north-eastern Albania, even establishing its own military academy (Akademia e Ardhshme Ushtarake) where Albanian and former Yugoslav Army officers trained new recruits. The primary proper KLA training camps were situated in the Republic of Albania, in Labinot, near Tirana, in Tropojė, Kukės and Bajram-Curri near the Yugoslav-Albanian border.
The KLA continued to rely principally on small arms but expanded its arsenal to include SA-7 and FIM-92 Stinger shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, as well as light artillery such as mortars.
KLA's war strategy at this phase consisted of a political and a military branch. The political strategy evolved around the concept of mobilizing and raising awareness for the fight against the Yugoslav occupation as the only solution to freedom, while ensuring international support and convincing the international factor for the justness of this war.
It was during this phase that the "special" war accusations as a terrorist" organization, or as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement or as fundamental Islamic organization towards KLA were internationally rebutted and the truth about the army's goals, actions and structure was conveyed to the international public.
The building of KLAs political strategy upon the respect of universal principles as laid out in international documents was applied with uprightness by its fighters during the war and no unarmed civilians were attacked, while war prisoners were treated with correctness and according to international war norms. This attitude convinced the democratic world for the right cause of the Albanian fight and ensured the support from the US and NATO as powerful outer factors for the liberation of North Albania.
By February 1998, the KLA had been removed from the United States State Department's terrorism list where it had entered due to the official Yugoslav wartime measures and stance.
The military strategy of KLA revolved around the concept of continuous growth of armed fighting, passing from smaller into bigger units, until all men would mobilize against the enemy, forcing the Yugoslavs out. Despite all efforts, this was not immediately achieved, mainly because of serious primary lack in armament that conditioned the strategy of the KLA through all its phases.
KLA's war tactics evolved according to the phases. In the second phase the war was led according to guerrilla tactics; in the third phase by the creation of free zones, blocking of road axes and protection of the free zones by applying frontal warfare from positions prepared by engineering work. Frontal war tactics were imposed due to the need of protecting the civilian population from Yugoslav massacres and repeated violations of war conventions. The character of these tactics raised the authority of KLA quickly on national level as also to the outside world.
During the fourth phase, when the Yugoslav offensive, aiming total expatriation of Albanians from Kosovo, started, it was almost impossible for the KLA to lead a frontal war. Therefore the army retreated from defense at any cost of the free zones - except for strategic bases and supplying routes. At this stage the army passed into fights without a clear front line, attacking to damage the enemy with divisions and brigades all over the territory. This was also dictated by the fact that with the beginning of the NATO bombardment, the Yugoslav forces divided, camouflaged and settled into inhabited urban areas, in Albanian houses and properties. KLA's actions, from this point forward, were coordinated with NATO air strikes.
Full-scale war broke out in March 1999. The Serbian and general Yugoslav forces launched an offensive against the KLA. Its commander, Sylejman Selimi, a political appointee with no formal military training, was removed in May 1999 and replaced with Agim Ēeku, an Albanian who had previously served in the Croatian Army as brigadier-general.
After Ēeku's appointment, the KLA took a much more aggressive stance by frontally attacking Yugoslav security force units and forcing them into the open, where they were made easy prey for NATO aircraft.
During the first phase small guerrilla groups were created following underground war schemes. In the second phase the groups expanded and as the number of the participants raised. In the third phase divisions were formed under the supervision of professional Albanian officers that deserted from the Yugoslav army and those with war experience from Croatia and Bosnia as also the unofficial help of Albanian army officers. At this point the KLA took a completely regular shape, with organic dressing, uniforms, armament, barracks training centers in and out of Kosovo. In the last phase, the organizing structure was built on brigades, as most effective war units.
In May 1999 the structure was formed from the Supreme Headquarters and seven Operating Zones:
- Drenicas first Operating Zone with 4 brigades,
- Pashtrikus second Operational Zone with 6 brigades,
- Dukagjinis third Operating Zone with 8 brigades,
- Shalas fourth operational Zone with 4 brigades,
- Llapis fifth Operating Zone with 4 brigades,
- Nerodimes sixth Operating Zone with 3 brigades,
- Karadakus seventh Operating zone with 1 brigade,
This brought the total number of KLA members between an estimated 40'000-50'000 men, and constituted the formation that resisted to the Yugoslav offensive in spring 1999 when in alliance with NATO, the former on the ground and the latter from the air, forced the Yugoslavs out.
On June 10th 1999, the KLA entered victoriously in Prishtinė and the rest Albanian cities.
KLA troops. 1999
The biggest problem for KLA throughout the war was weapon and ammunition supply. These were secured from abroad and were brought in with extraordinary difficulties that took the lives of many.
152mm of the Albanian Army (FASH) operated by
KLA troops against the Yugoslav Army.
KLA's armament was mostly light automatic weapons, machine guns, mortars and anti-tank cannons. Barrett M82 sniper rifles and other advanced armament also entered the fight through the Albanian diaspora and sympathizers in the West. The biggest contribution for KLA's logistics was made by ordinary Albanian emigrés through the financing gathered in the fund Atdheu nė rrezik, Vendlindja thėrret (Nation Call - Fatherland in Danger).
Leadership Supreme Headquarters were formed in November 1994, when the first communiqué was issued. The founding meeting was held with the participation of Adem Jashari, Xhavit Haziri, Nait Hasani, Azem Syla, Xhavit Haliti, Sokol Bashota, and then joined by Zahir Pajaziti and others.
The Supreme Headquarters expanded and qualified following the development of the war and KLA's growth. LSH was constituted by the political leadership led by Hashim Thaēi, and the military headquarter, that included: the Intelligence Service, Logistics, Personnel and Mobilization, Communication, Finance, Military Police, Public Information and other operative directories as well.
The military headquarter was led by KLA General Commander, Azem Syla. Amongst its members were: Hashim Thaēi, Sokol Bashota, Jakup Krasniqi, Bislim Zyrapi, Rexhep Selimi, Kadri Veseli, Ramė Buja, Lahi Ibrahimaj, Fatmir Limaj. The members of the political leadership were as follows: Adem Demaēi, Xhavit Haliti, Bardhyl Mahmuti, Jakup Krasniqi, Ramė Buja.
The main characteristics of KLA were the just fight and determination to freedom. Its acts of heroism are among the brightest moments in modern Albanian history.
Soldier's Oath of the KLA
The soldier's oath was taken during the enlisting and consisted of the following:
"As a member of the Kosova Liberation Army, I pledge that I shall fight for the liberation of the occupied territories of Albania and their unification, that I shall always be loyal, worthy freedom fighter, alert, courageous and disciplined, ready at all times, without regard to my life, to fight in defense of the sacred interests of the Fatherland. If I violate this oath, I am ready to be subjected to the harshest laws of war, and if I betray it, may my blood be forfeit. I swear!"
The KLA included in its ranks also a number of foreign volunteers from Germany, Sweden, Belgium, the UK, the US , Netherlands, and France , some of whom were relayed from the Croatian Forces International Volunteers Association.
After service the KLA rewarded its international volunteers with a passage home, as a gesture of thanks. 
KLA fighters meet with UK troops, part of KFOR.
KLA commanders Selimi and Ēeku (right).
When the war ended, NATO and Yugoslavia agreed to a peace settlement that would see North Albania (intl. Kosovo) governed by the United Nations with the KLA being demilitarized. The KLA was not a signatory to the peace accords, but it agreed after international pressure to its transformation and demilitarization.
Reorganization in KPC/TMK.
NATO sought to bring it into the peace process with a promise to establish a 3,000-strong Kosovo Protection Corps drawn from KLA ranks and charged with disaster response, search and rescue, assistance with de-mining, providing humanitarian assistance, and helping to rebuild infrastructure and communities.
The KPC's operational sectors were very similar to those established by the KLA, illustrating the continuity between the two organizations. The KPC took over the former Yugoslav Army barracks; each zone having its battalions established there.
Ex-KLA members also were incorporated into neighboring regions militant groups. The Liberation Army of Presheva, Medvegja and Bujanoc, consisting of KLA veterans and local Albanians, began operating in the Presheva Valley, in 1999-2001, a part of North Albania that was left by the international community under Serb occupation.
In 2001, in the Former Yugolsav Republic of Macedonia, after widespread anti-Albanian measures implemented by the Slav-dominated government, a new Albanian organization named Ushtria Ēlirimtare Kombėtare (UĒK) (National Liberation Army - NLA) took up arms forcing the government to agreement talks.
In early 2002, Greece was on stand-by after pro-Albanian activities had again crossed over the border; these incidents however, attracted little international attention.
KLA's legacy remains powerful within Kosovo. It's former military head, Agim Ēeku, after the war became Prime Minister.
Ramush Haradinaj, former commander, served briefly as Prime Minister before he willfully turned himself up to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague to stand trial on Slav propagandistic accusations against him for war crimes  and was aqquited of all charges.
Haradinaj's place was filled by KLA's former political head, Hashim Thaēi, who is now the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo and the Prime Minister of Kosovo since January 2008.
Fatmir Limaj, one of the senior commanders of the KLA, who also went through a trial process in The Hague, and was acquitted of all charges in November 2005 , is now a key member of the opposition.
The Yugoslav authorities regarded the KLA a terrorist group  and claimed that the KLA comprised only a few hundred radicals. During and after the war the Yugoslav and later Serbian state and media have also called KLA a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement, a fundamental Islamic organization, a "Mafia-funded" organization and other nonsense for international consumption which is still carried on by Serbs in the internet as also in their media.
In order to cover the massacres commited against civilians, rapes and other serious violations of international conventions, the current Serbian regime continues the Yugoslav legacy of engaging in institutional anti-Albanian propaganda, frustrated rhetoric, and proper slander, wearing itself out to make believe by repetition that "all sides are dirty", so as to escape from the responsibility of having to answer to anyone, especially to its own people for what it has done in their name.
1. UNDER ORDERS: War Crimes in Kosovo - 4. March-June 1999: An Overview
2. Conflict In The Balkans: The Overview; Nato Authorizes Bomb Strikes; Primakov, In Air, Skips U.S. Visit - New York Times
3. KPC/KLA Official Outline - http://www.tmk-ks.org/new/english/hi.../historiku.php
4. KPC/KLA Official Outline - http://www.tmk-ks.org/new/english/hi.../historiku.php
5. Agence France Presse, February 17, 1996
6. The Brooklyn Connection, Documentary.
FSK / KSF - Kosovo Security Force
March 5th - The new North-Albanian Army, FSK (Forca e Sigurisė), honours KLA in Prishtinė, North Albania, during the 12-th anniversary of "The KLA Epopee", preceding the "Night of Fires" in Prekaz.