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No "Knock-out Punch," Just Compelling Force

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 31, 1999 – NATO has not delivered a "knock-out punch" to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but the 19-nation alliance has done "one hell of a lot" in seven days, according to NATO's operational spokesman.

"We've hit him really hard," said British Royal Air Force Air Commodore David Wilby. "We've hit his air defense. We've hit his immediate logistics base. We've hit his air power [which] is almost nonexistent right now." He estimated NATO pilots have destroyed or severely damaged about 30 Yugoslav aircraft in the air or on the ground.

Citing another example, Wilby noted that a Serb battle group moved after suffering heavy attacks by NATO aircraft over the past few days. NATO is waiting to again "address" this group, he added.

During a March 31 briefing in Brussels, the British air officer and SHAPE spokesman displayed further evidence of the air campaign's effectiveness. He showed photos of considerable bomb damage at the Serbs' 63rd Airborne Brigade headquarters in Nis and several other locations, as well as cockpit tapes of multiple bomb attacks on fuel storage facilities.

"Attacks on this sort of installation have caused Yugoslavia to ration and re-direct all available fuel reserves to the offensive military effort in Kosovo," Wilby said.

Echoing Wilby's prediction that Operation Allied Force will be an extended campaign, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the alliance is firmly determined to continue as long as it takes. He said NATO authorities knew Milosevic and his battle-tried army "would be a tough nut to crack."

No matter how NATO hoped to deliver a knock-out punch in 24 hours, alliance authorities knew that wasn't likely and that NATO had to be prepared to see this through, Shea said.

Shea rejected the notion posed by reporters that the NATO strikes have not done enough fast enough to stop Milosevic's ethnic purge in Kosovo. That, Shea said, is like telling Eliot Ness he should retire because he hadn't nailed Al Capone in a week.

NATO knew Milosevic would test NATO's resolve, he said. "Many people predicted that NATO, an alliance of 19 nations, wouldn't have the staying power when things got tough," Shea said. The alliance has now shown this is not the case, he said.

NATO member nations unanimously decided March 30 to accelerate the tempo and broaden the scope of the mission. Canada and other allies are adding more aircraft to the NATO air armada.

When democracies "get their back up" for a just cause, Shea said, they suddenly discover reserves of staying power. They tend to be the "long-term winners," he concluded.

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