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Air Campaign Pounds Yugoslavs, Milosevic; Withers Morale

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 23, 1999 – Further evidence of declining Yugoslavian army and police morale under NATO air attacks was released April 22 by DoD officials here.

During a Pentagon news conference, Rear Adm. Thomas Wilson, Joint Staff intelligence director, said evidence suggests desertion rates are up for Yugoslav forces as is the no-show rate among individuals called up for reserve duty.

"I saw a report the other day that several hundred soldiers deserted from the Pristina Corps alone," he said. The Pristina Corps is one of two in the Yugoslavian 3rd Army that's fighting in Kosovo. He said other units are experiencing desertions, and he characterized the problem as "across the board" for the Yugoslavs.

Other signs of success are visible along the lines of communication from Serbia into Kosovo. Wilson said all four main routes into province have been cut, thus halving the cargo reaching Serb forces.

"This, too, is affecting their attitude," Wilson said. Yugoslav forces are not getting enough fuel or supplies, he said, and NATO has bombed their garrisons and training and maintenance facilities. "They have to hunker down in fixed positions and just endure these attacks." NATO pilots also continue to work on degrading lines of communication, especially bridge busting.

Allied Force pilots flew 324 sorties April 21, more than half of them air strikes. The air campaign to date totals more than 9,300 sorties, about 2,750 of them strike sorties. A sortie is one flight by one aircraft.

NATO also ratcheted up the air war April 21 by striking a suburbian Belgrade residence of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said the residence was also a command and control site with bunkers, communications and other facilities. "We're going after the [Yugoslav military's] central nervous system," he said. Neither Milosevic nor his family was in the house at the time.

Wilson cataloged NATO pilots' progress. They've eliminated the Serbs' ability to refine oil by destroying both their plants and damaged at least 25 percent of their fuel storage facilities, he said,. In any case, while fuel may still be in storage areas, the Yugoslav army can't get to it, he added.

The pilots gained air superiority over Yugoslavia by destroying 16 early warning radars, command and control centers, numerous air defense missile sites and half the Yugoslav air force's front-line fighters, he said.

Wilson said the Kosovo Liberation Army isn't well-trained, but it's still fighting and recruiting despite the Serbs' continuing counterinsurgency campaign. The NATO air strikes are making it more difficult for Yugoslav forces to coordinate attacks against the Kosovar resistance, he noted.

In other developments, Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, Joint Staff vice director for strategic plans and policy, said the Serbs have again closed Kosovo's borders with Albania and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. Up to 750,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovars are thought still trapped in the province -- relief organizations believe up to 200,000 may escape the province by May 1, he said.

NATO officials continue to receive accounts of Serbs attacking Kosovar refugees struggling to leave the province -- a large group en route to Macedonia was reportedly surrounded and shelled April 20 by Serb forces, Wald said.

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