Kosovo armed forces took over security duties on Wednesday, less than a year after the territory declared independence from Serbia, officials said.
The Kosovo Protection Force replaces a 3,000-strong civilian emergency organization formed out of the disbanded ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army that fought Serbia in the 1998-99 war. New commander Lt. Gen. Sylejman Selimi, a former rebel fighter, said the 2,500 lightly armed troops would fulfill security duties in the fledgling nation, but would remain under the supervision of NATO's 15,000 peacekeepers in charge of overall security. It will be trained by British NATO officers, wear uniforms provided by United States and drive vehicles secured by the German government. Initially it will not have tanks, heavy artillery or airplanes.
Serbia which insists Kosovo remains a part of its territory said it would file a protest with the United Nations against the force.
Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said the ethnic Albanian army "is an illegal" and "paramilitary force" that threatens regional stability.
Kosovo declared independence in February 2008.