Joint Guardian on Track, NATO Watches Montenegro
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 6, 1999 The NATO commander said Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo is off to a good start, but he is concerned about Serb movements into the neighboring Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro.
U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark said more than 23,000 allied troops are in Kosovo, including 4,500 Americans, during a July 1 Pentagon news conference. He said NATO is looking to accelerate deployment of troops to the area.
Clark also commented on confusion over what NATO aircraft hit during the air campaign against Serb forces in Kosovo. "We stand by the figures we presented earlier," he said. "It's 110 tanks, 210 armored fighting vehicles, 449 pieces of artillery and mortar equipment." He said the figures are based on overhead imagery and cockpit video.
He said troops on the ground have found what mission planners had expected. He said Kosovar Albanians have "been through a real tragedy," and they are returning and beginning to sort out their lives. He said NATO expected the Serbs to generally follow the military technical agreement that ended the air campaign against Yugoslavia, and they have.
"We know there are some [Serb] stay-behind elements," Clark said. "We're not sure what they're doing there, how many there are or how long they're going to be there, and we're in the process of asking them to leave when we identify them."
Clark said NATO is watching the Serb deployment into Montenegro, which, though part of Yugoslavia, stayed out of the fight in Kosovo. The leadership of the republic is pro- Western and has been under political pressure from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
"We've seen the reinforcement of some of the [Serb] elements there," Clark said. "We've seen a pattern over several weeks of attempting to put more ethnic Serbians ... into positions of authority," Clark said. "I think Montenegro remains a very sensitive area. I think President Milosevic is calculating what is to his best advantage in terms of making moves in that area."