Updated: 22 May 1999 Morning Briefings


22 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea : Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. And let me emphasise, as you have seen already from the communiqu that we issued earlier, that NATO aircraft took maximum advantage yesterday of the opening that was caused by better weather over Kosovo and we had yesterday the single most active period of the campaign thus far with the largest number of sorties flown to date, 684. That is as I have said the highest figure we have managed to achieve thus far, and 245 of those were strike sorties, together with another 90 which were intended to suppress the Yugoslav air defence system. And as we have been doing consistently for the last weeks, we took every possible opportunity to press home against those forces on the ground in Kosovo directly responsible for the campaign of violence by Belgrade against the ethnic Albanian population.

NATO aircraft yesterday struck more than 30 elements of Serb heavy forces on the ground in Kosovo, including at least 12 tanks, 11 armoured vehicles, 9 artillery positions. We struck at least 7 other military vehicles. The battle damage assessment is still under way and General Jertz will be able to give you more when he comes up at 3.00.

As you know already, in Istok, Kosovo, NATO forces attacked a barracks and an assembly area that has been in use for a long time by both the Yugoslav Army and the MUP special police forces as part of their operations against the KLA and also against Kosovar civilians, and this military facility abuts a prison, but I want to stress, as I did yesterday, that it is a military facility, the prison is part of this but it is only a small part of what is quite a major military facility.

NATO also attacked a militia post in Kosovo used to support the MUP at Djakovica, and we struck also at border posts at Glavka and Voykazon. Even as we pressed home our attacks against the Serb forces in Kosovo, NATO aircraft struck a wide array of strategic targets throughout Yugoslavia to further cut those forces off from their Commanders and supplies. You have received a full list of those targets this morning so I don't need to repeat everything, but I just want to highlight the fact that we attacked yesterday power transformer yards at 5 different locations, including Belgrade, ammunition depots, highway bridges, TV and radio relay transmitter sites, radio relay stations, fuel storage facilities, a Presidential retreat and leadership command and control centre at Dobanevici.

All NATO aircraft returned safely. Operations now on Day 60 of Allied Force are proceeding and we are making of course preparations for Day 61. Again General Jertz will have more on all of that for you at 3.00 pm, but I will be happy to answer the questions that I can for the time being.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Kashare Barracks in south west Kosovo, which was hit a couple of days ago, initially attributed to a strike by Yugoslav forces but there is now a rumour apparently in Albania that it was mistakenly hit by NATO, and I wonder if you know anything about that? And the second query about the piece, I am sure you will have seen it, in the Telegraph about the Apaches, that apparently having to negotiate 10,000 ft mountains reduces their range from 400 - 100 miles unless you burden them with extra fuel pods which cuts down their military effectiveness. Is there any truth in that?

Jamie Shea : Two questions. First of all, the indication I have is this UCK site at Kasani, or Kashare, it is probably the same, Jake, but I will double check that, and yes I am aware of those reports and we are still conducting an investigation into that. I don't have any information yet, but we will see if we have anything on that at 3.00 this afternoon.

As for the piece by Tim Butcher in the Daily Telegraph, I read that this morning and the impression that I gained from reading that piece is that the Apaches are now being intensively trained and equipped in order to be able to conduct their operations, matched of course to the circumstances of the terrain that they find in Kosovo. And therefore I would not exclude the use of the Apaches. The timing again is going to be in the hands of the military commanders. But on the other hand I have made it clear for weeks here that the Apaches should not be seen as a sort of make or break capability. We have had a variety of different aircraft which are specifically designed to do the same thing as the Apaches are designed to do, such as the A10s, and of course now you know the AC130 spectre gunships which have been deployed or used on 5 occasions, and so we have got plenty of those capabilities up and running already. But again the decision on the use of the Apaches is still in the hands of the military commanders.

Question: I just wanted a clarification about an article in Der Spiegel which talks about the information policy of NATO and they specifically mention the fact that Italy, which has the role of air carrier for NATO, is not represented in this structure. Can you can confirm or deny that?

Jamie Shea : We have Mariangela Zappia in our media operations centre and she is an excellent colleague and I am delighted that she is with us.

Greg: There is a lot of news coming out of the Pentagon briefing etc about the deployment of more forces in the area. Number one, can you confirm that maybe as early as next week the NAC could approve a Security force deployment of up to 50,000 specifically to Macedonia which now the United States is specifically saying that Macedonia should be the base for the bulk of these forces? Secondly, can you confirm that NATO is continuing an assessment of an actual combat force if things don't go well on the diplomacy side? And finally the quote that Bacon used is that everyone is looking at the calendar and we are looking at what must be done to get the refugees back home by winter. Do you imply, and that is what has been taken by some people, from that that whatever means must be used to get those refugees home by winter?

Jamie Shea : OK. Lots of questions there Greg, although all around the same tentpole as it were. First of all, the update of the Op plan for joint guardian is now being finalised by the Military Committee and it will go to NATO Ambassadors this coming week, I am pretty sure of that, and then NATO Ambassadors will obviously have the decision to approve the recommendations in that revised Op plan.

As for the idea of increasing numbers above the 28,000 where we were at last year, no decision has been taken yet, but I certainly would not excluded that NAC will improve an increase in numbers of that force given obviously the reality, which everybody is aware of, that we will face many extra challenges when the force is deployed, over and above what we were looking at last year, problems of mines, problems of damage to housing, the larger number of refugees that have to come back, the need to support the setting up of a transitional authority, to name but a few. But the figures that I saw today are not official figures - are not official figures - so I don't want to confirm those figures yet.

As for the notion of deploying additional elements in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, there are some additional reinforcements already en route, for example within the next weeks a small element from Canada for example and from two other allies as well. That will bring the pre-deployed total up to about 16,000 and if the number of forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as the advance guard of KFOR, the advance guard of the force is to be increased, obviously that would have to be subject to discussions with the government in Skopje as well, and those discussions to my knowledge have not yet taken place.

So I think the best answer I can give you is let's wait for the NAC to have the Op plan next week and take a formal decision. But I have always made the point that we want to be ready, we need to understand fully the dimensions of the challenge that lay ahead in terms of the need to construct a very robust security presence in Kosovo which alone is going to encourage the refugees to return, and we will want to be ready also, not simply in terms of size but in terms of rapidity of deployment because we do not want, once Milosevic has accepted the five conditions, for a vacuum situation to arise whereby there would be a dangerous lag between the departure of the Serb forces and the arrival of the international security presence.

Now as for the winter, obviously we are going to do our utmost, our utmost, to secure the compliance of Belgrade with the five conditions in the next few weeks so that to the extent we can the refugees can go back before the onset of winter. Clearly that is in everybody's interest, it is in the interest of NATO, it is in the interests of the neighbouring countries which otherwise would incur a great extra burden of winterisation, the international humanitarian organisations would also have to pay a lot of money to winterise the refugee camps, you know thicker tents, put the tents up above the ground, heating and so on. I think it costs about, I saw figures the other day, four times more per capita for a refugee per month during the winter than it does during the summer because of that winterisation, but in any case there would still be a large winterisation responsibility in Kosovo itself in terms of making the houses suitable for refugees to return to get through the winter. But obviously the earlier, the better from that point of view.

Greg: Can you confirm also that NATO is examining the ground combat option, as was indicated from Washington yesterday?

Jamie Shea : Thank you Greg, excuse me for missing that. Let me make it clear, we are giving the priority in our planning to the peace implementation force, that is the priority. Options for other type of ground deployments are being kept under review, as the Secretary General made it clear before the Washington Summit, we keep all options on the table, we keep all options under review. But the priority, in accordance with the NATO policy that you know so well, is being given to examining the revised Op plan for the international security force which will go once the five conditions have been met, but it is part of the five conditions.

John Sweeney, Observer: Earlier you said that the Apaches shouldn't be seen as a make or break weapon, but I picked this up in northern Albania the other day, it is a NATO leaflet and it is in Serb, there is a picture of an Apache and says: "We are coming to get you". So are we now putting out a new leaflet saying the Apaches aren't coming to get the Serbs?

Jamie Shea : That is a good question, John. Obviously, as you can imagine, I don't write the NATO leaflets, but when I explain the NATO policy from up here I can tell you, as I have said all along, the Apache is a good additional capability, but it is nothing more than that, it is an additional capability, but it is one of many additional capabilities that we have deployed in recent days. For example further A10 aircraft are being deployed in the next few days to forward operating bases. I mentioned the AC130 spectre gunships that have been deployed, we are deploying a large number as you know because I have announced this, of F16 and F15 aircraft. So there is a general augmentation of assets, the Apaches are part of that, but as I have said before they can only be used when the training has been concluded because obviously this is difficult terrain for helicopters and we have to make sure we get it right, and when the equipment is done, to make sure that they are able to operate. So that is what I have to say on that.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: We have heard lots of statistics about tanks destroyed, artillery destroyed, petroleum and so on, and so on. We have had Robin Cook and Madeleine Albright saying regrettably probably a few hundred civilians may have been killed. We have never had a casualty figure for Serbian forces. I frankly for one refuse to believe that there is not some estimate somewhere and I wonder why we are not told this figure, why is it so sensitive?

Jamie Shea : Doug, I have never seen a figure on casualties and to be frank with you I think it is something that is very difficult to know, I haven't seen an estimate either. I think also the fact is that Belgrade is rather secretive about casualty figures itself. As you know, in the NATO Armies, every time a soldier dies there is an extremely intensive investigation into all of the circumstances of that, but I am not sure that the same thing applies in Yugoslavia today quite frankly vis a vis the casualties. Indeed as I mentioned the other day, I think that one of the reasons why there was the unrest at Kursevac at the beginning of the week is because there was largely a black-out on information about casualties, or casualty figures, not just of course as a result of the NATO actions but also of course as a result of the prolonged fighting with the UCK, which has been going on for well over a year now. And when the 10 or so coffins came back to Krusevac, you know after a period of silence, I think this had a big emotional shock on the local population which was suddenly confronted with reality which had been sort of screened out in many respects, and I think that is one of the reasons for the unrest that happened. But I haven't seen any figures either from Belgrade and we of course have a much easier time in our battle damage assessment being able to pinpoint the destruction of tanks and artillery and so on, than we are able to account for individual soldiers. So it is simply the fact that I haven't seen a figure.

Doug: But do you acknowledge that must have some idea, even if he doesn't tell his wife what he thinks, he must have some idea of how many soldiers he has killed?

Jamie Shea : He has not given any such figure, and again I think genuinely it would be very difficult Doug, genuinely, with attacks occurring at night as well as during the day to really have an accurate idea unless you are on the ground and can monitor this directly.

Pierre: Est-ce que vous savez si les prisonniers kosovars ont pu s'chapper donc du centre d'Istok aprs le bombardement

Jamie Shea : Non, je n'ai pas de confirmation Pierre. J'ai vu comme vous les images ou les rapports de presse mais je n'ai pas de confirmation de ma part.

Nick Childs, BBC: Just going back a few more days, do you have anything more yet to say on the barracks and the hospital in Belgrade, have you been able to confirm yet the base of what building was hit?

Jamie Shea : No I have no new information on that subject.

Barry: On the transformers, can we assume that carbon particle bombs were used, or you were actually trying to destroy these power transformers?

Jamie Shea : We used a combination of weapons against the transformers yesterday, that is the answer to that.

John: To go back to the questions that Greg raised, at the start of Allied Force we were given to understand that the Macedonian government would object to the use of its territory as a jumping off place for a NATO invasion of Yugoslavia for an intervention that wasn't done with the agreement of Belgrade. Is that still correct? And the Greeks as you know yesterday told the Turks that they could not use Greek air space to attack formations whose goal was to attack Yugoslavia. What is the Greek position in the event that there is an invasion of Yugoslavia, would they also say no you can't use Greek territory to mount a force?

Jamie Shea : First of all on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as you know, we have deployed the forces there as a peace implementation force, that has been the basis. The government has already allowed us one ceiling raising from 12,000 to 16,000 which is going ahead at the moment, any further raising of the ceiling is something of course which would be subject to bilateral discussions at the appropriate time. But NATO policy is and remains to deploy a peace implementation force. We have no decision - no decision - on any other type of force, even though we have planned for other options and continue to keep that planning under review. So there is no misunderstanding on this. Any augmentations that we have been referring to would be in the context of preparing the international security presence, the peace implementation force.

On the subject of the Greek government, obviously I am not speaking on behalf of the Greek government and you should of course address questions to them. All I want to say here is that the Greek government has supported from the beginning Operation Allied Force, along with the other 18 members of the Alliance. NATO is always sensitive to the particular positions and views of our individual allies and we always respect those individual positions. But what is remarkable is the fact that here we are on Day 60 with the solid support of all 19 democratic nations in the Alliance for Operation Allied Force.

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