NATO-U.S. Resolve Steadfast in Campaign Against Milosevic
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 1, 1999 NATO will soon have 1,000 aircraft "coming at Serbia from all angles," Defense Secretary William Cohen said May 28. "I am increasingly confident [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is on a descending slope."
NATO's Operation Allied Force air campaign over Serbia can go on as long as necessary, he told reporters at a roundtable discussion in the Pentagon.
"We believe that the air campaign, in fact, is working consistent with our goals of diminishing and damaging and degrading Milosevic's military and his infrastructure," he said. "We had planned on intensifying that air campaign. That intensification is now well under way."
Cohen has ordered two squadrons of F-15Es (36 aircraft total) and a squadron of 12 F-16CJs from the Air Combat Command and 20 KC-135 tankers from the Air Mobility Command to join other U.S. forces participating in the operation. The deployment, to begin the first week of June, will raise the U.S. commitment to 769 aircraft.
The new contingent is part of a 176-aircraft increment Cohen approved for deployment May 6 and fulfills in part an earlier request for more aircraft from Gen. Wesley K. Clark, supreme allied commander Europe.
The secretary cited strong support from Congress in supplementing the defense authorization to pay for the campaign and an ongoing consensus from NATO members to continue attacking Yugoslav forces operating in and around Kosovo. His comments followed a 24-hour period of nearly 700 combat sorties over the Serbian province.
"We are increasingly finding forces in the field," Cohen said. "We are going after the tanks and artillery pieces, [and] they continue to be hit with increasing frequency. The better the weather, obviously the better it's going to be as far as carrying out that mission."
The only way the bombing will stop, he said, is if Milosevic agrees to NATO conditions, takes steps to pull his forces out of Kosovo and agrees to greater autonomy for the region. Meanwhile, nothing has been taken off the table as to when and how many U.S. troops may be sent in to police Kosovo as part of a NATO ground force of 50,000, the secretary said. He estimated the U.S. contribution might be about 15 percent.
He also said the United States and NATO aren't worried that the World Court's recent indictment of Milosevic for war crimes will disrupt air operations. Contrary to reports the indictment could stiffen Serb resistance, he said, it also sends the Serbs a strong message that their leader is a war criminal and unworthy of support.
"As we have indicated with all indicted war criminals, there's no statute of limitations," Cohen added. "One day he will come to trial."