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Picture Show: Keeping Peace in Kosovo

Just over two years have passed since the nation of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Although the bloodiest moments of the conflict have passed, the United States military still maintains a peace-keeping presence in the nation, which had been under U.N. protection since 1999.


Just over two years have passed since the nation of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Although the bloodiest moments of the conflict have passed, the United States military still maintains a peace-keeping presence in the nation, which had been under U.N. protection since 1999. Recently, the photographer Mitchell Kohler discovered that his home state of North Dakota was the lead state for the current rotation of troops in Kosovo, and he made arrangements to travel overseas, where he witnessed first-hand the daily challenges of soldiers living in a foreign land, and documented them in a series of vivid images.

"When I first heard that these North Dakota troops were going to Kosovo, I thought, good for them; they're going to a place that's safe," says Kohler. "After you get there, you find out that a lot of them kind of wish they did get sent to Afghanistan. They went through this same training that troops do to go to Iraq or Afghanistan, but then they get to Kosovo and it's a peace-keeping mission. It almost is more like a nine to five job in some aspects, so they just want to keep busy, more things to do to keep their minds off what they're missing.

"But I found that some troops have gone really above and beyond what's expected of them—in part so they can stay busy. Some of the troops help out with wrestling programs at local schools, some of the troops help teach kids English, and one girl I met helped clean up trash in areas of the local communities that are still in not very good shape after the wars. The troops are doing a lot of things besides what is expected of them."

What follows is a selection from Mitchell Kohler's "Kosovo," with captions by the photographer.

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