Reserve Call-up Request to Go to President
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 20, 1999 A call-up request for U.S. reserve forces to support Operation Allied Force in Europe will soon go to the president, Pentagon officials said April 19.
Officials also said the emergency supplemental bill to fund ongoing U.S. participation in the strikes against Serbia is set at $6 billion and is on its way to Congress for approval. The supplemental will fund ongoing strikes, humanitarian aid and some mission expenses incurred during Operation Desert Fox.
The supplemental bill is something of a readiness safety net. Once approved, the services will no longer have to pay for the Allied Force mission by taking from funds that are used to maintain overall military readiness.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, vice director for strategic plans and policy with the Joint Staff, said the humanitarian effort is going well. Some 54 nations are now involved with feeding and housing the Kosovar Albanians. Eleven countries have started taking in the refugees.
This support is coming at a crucial time as over 24,000 Kosovar Albanians crossed into Albania and Macedonia according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Wald said the UNHCR estimates that 150,000 to 200,000 more refugees could cross the borders by April 24.
Allied Force pilots continued to hammer Serbia and Serb forces in Kosovo. NATO officials said more than 8,500 sorties have been flown to date and NATO continues to degrade Milosevic's capability to wage war.
NATO firepower will soon increase with the addition of U.S. Army Apache helicopters. The Apaches are due to arrive in Tirana April 20. U.S. officials said Gen. Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe would make the final decision on when the tank-killer choppers would enter combat.
While Army and Air Force engineers have worked nonstop to prepare the airfield at Tirana for the Apaches, the conditions are still primitive. Wald showed pictures of military trucks mired in mud at the airfield site. He said engineers are still placing aluminum mats at the site.
The introduction of the Apaches into the operation is part of a larger buildup of military firepower. The Pentagon is currently working on a request from Gen. Clark for 300 additional aircraft.
"What [Gen. Clark] has requested is a capability," said Wald at an April 17 briefing. According to Wald, the Joint Staff will work with the regional commanders in chief to evaluate the request and present NATO with the capability. This may mean 300 aircraft or it could be fewer.
At the briefing, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Mike Doubleday announced the Kosovo Liberation Army had captured a Yugoslav army lieutenant and turned him over to Albanian authorities. The Albanians turned him over to the U.S. Army in Tirana, Albania. Doubleday said the lieutenant is being treated as a prisoner of war.
"Two representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited the Yugoslav army officer, who is in the hands of U.S. authorities," Doubleday said. The lieutenant was allowed to write his family and received a physical exam by U.S. officials.
"This was all in accordance with the Geneva Convention and also in stark contrast, I might add, to the treatment that the three soldiers who were abducted by Yugoslav forces late last month have been afforded since their abduction," Doubleday said. "Those individuals have yet to meet with the ICRC, although the ICRC is continuing to attempt to meet with them, nor to our knowledge have they been given an opportunity to communicate with their families.
Doubleday said the Geneva Conventions authorize prisoner exchanges, "but I think at this point it's premature to think about that. Particularly in light of the fact that, [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic has yet to adhere to many of the rights and protections offered by the Geneva Convention to the American soldiers."