Allied Force Chief Cites Success
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 26, 1999 Thirty-one days into Operation Allied Force, NATO's operational commander praised the service members taking part and said their efforts have significantly degraded Yugoslavia's military and security apparatus and infrastructure.
"The men and women of the alliance's armed forces are performing magnificently," said U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme allied commander Europe. "They are courageous, highly competent and dedicated to this mission and we are all proud of each and every one of them."
Clark addressed reporters during NATO's 50th anniversary summit here April 23. The general reported on what the NATO mission has accomplished to date and announced plans to intensify the air campaign.
"We have achieved air superiority at mid to high altitudes throughout Yugoslavia," he said. "The air defense forces there are ineffective against NATO aircraft and are being destroyed whenever they challenge us."
NATO has destroyed more than 70 Yugoslav aircraft, including five during air-to-air combat, Clark reported. Forty percent of Milosevic's SA-3 missile battalions and 25 percent of his SA-6 missile batteries have been knocked out, he said.
"We've inflicted significant damage to military industrial targets and maintenance facilities, in order to disrupt his ability to repair and reconstitute air, missile and ground forces," Clark continued. "In the weeks ahead, this should further impede his air and ground forces."
Oil refineries have been largely destroyed, and fuel distribution has been disrupted. Serb operations in Kosovo have been temporarily halted three times due to a lack of fuel, Clark said. Communications systems supporting command and control have been moderately degraded, but NATO forces "continue to strike hard taking a toll on them," he said.
Allied forces are isolating Yugoslav forces in Kosovo by interdicting roads and rail links, and by destroying field command posts. April 22, despite some adverse weather in Kosovo, NATO destroyed an artillery battery, six tanks, 23 vehicles, a column of troops and a field command post, Clark noted.
"Operation Allied Force is progressing well," Clark said. "It's true, President [Slobodan] Milosevic has shown a willingness to accept a high level of damage" -- but Yugoslavia's military and security forces and supporting infrastructure have been significantly damaged. "They are vulnerable to collapse."
"In short," Clark concluded, "we're winning, he's losing and he knows it."
But at this rate, a foreign reporter asked the general, how long will it take? Clark replied, "I would only advise you not to get into the 'battle damage bean counting.' The campaign has a much broader impact than any statistics.
"What we're doing here is attacking the forces at all levels," the general said. "We're putting pressure on them. They're in hiding during the day, and at night, when allied aircraft are out, they cannot move, they cannot operate. They're lurking in villages, running back into forests, and otherwise trying to get away from us. They're ineffective."
NATO intends to intensify its attacks; it's sharpening its techniques and bringing in new assets. Yugoslav forces in Kosovo "are going to pay a heavy price for remaining there," Clark said.