The high-school dropout, only 21 with no actual terrorist connections at the time of the crime, said he never intended to harm Americans and regretted his actions.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson said he doubted Kaziu's remorse, but had no doubt of his guilt.
"You grew up in Brooklyn and decided to murder your own country's soldiers," Gleeson said. "I really don't think your resolve to commit terrorist acts has been diminished . . . You're still way too proud of having become a jihadist."
Inspired by the rhetoric of the late radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Kaziu, now 24, was accused of trying to acquire automatic weapons to use against U.S. troops during his trip and was arrested shortly after recording a martyrdom video.
He was convicted last year of conspiracy to commit murder overseas, to provide material support to terrorism, and to use a machine gun in those crimes, as well as attempting to provide material support.
Sentencing guidelines called for life in prison.
Defense lawyers portrayed Kaziu as more immature than dangerous, and told Gleeson he would be a changed man as he grew older. Kaziu told the judge he wasn't a killer.
"I may have had certain radical thoughts and opinions, but I never decided to kill anyone in any way," he said.
"I wish I never went down this path," he added. "But I ask you to sentence me based on my acts, not my words or opinions. I completely regret what I did in that phase of my life."
Prosecutors asked for a sentence "at or near" life, telling the judge Kaziu was prepping for a suicide mission when U.S. and Kosovar police, after a frantic search, caught up with him in 2009.
"If they hadn't," said prosecutor Shreve Ariail, "we would have read about Mr. Kaziu in a different way when he blew himself up in front of a military base in Kosovo."
After the sentencing, Kaziu smiled, waved and blew kisses to family as he was escorted out of court.