Kosovo report stresses Nato successFeb 10, 2000
WASHINGTON - A Pentagon report on the NATO air war over Kosovo concludes it was an "overwhelming success," without allied combat casualties, but also pointed out some military shortcomings.
Allied forces demonstrated "unrivaled military prowess" in the 78-day war that ended last June, with Serb forces being driven out of Kosovo, the review sent to Congress this week said.
"We forced Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his forces from Kosovo, degraded his ability to wage military operations and rescued over 1 million refugees," Defense Secretary William Cohen said in the reports introduction.
He said the NATO campaign ensured the stability of Eastern Europe, thwarted ethnic cleansing and ensured NATOs credibility. The report does not, however, cover operations of the NATO force still in Kosovo or the fact that Yugoslav President Milosevic remains in power under Western economic sanctions.
It called Operation Allied Force "the most precise military operation ever conducted." The largely self-congratulatory review accompanied the Defense Departments 2001 fiscal budget proposals.
The harshest self-criticism is reserved for one of the biggest US errors: the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, which killed three Chinese and soured relations with Beijing.
"It was a result of a failure in the process of identifying and validating proposed targets," the report said, adding that methods used were "severely flawed." The report said immediate corrective actions were taken, however.
The report covers relations with Russia and considerations of a ground option but offers no new details on the depth of concern over Russias opposition to the campaign, or the debates within NATO over whether to use ground forces.
It notes that the operation was conducted without a single combat fatality among the 19 nations allied against Serbia.
"(This is) an incredible and unprecedented achievement for an operation of this scale." However, it added, "This achievement cannot be expected in every future conflict."
The report contained no assessment of civilian or Serb casualties. The US military, which has come to regard the subject of battlefield body counts as taboo since the Vietnam War, has made no effort to estimate civilian casualties in the war for Kosovo, a senior military official said last week.
Separately, Cohen said Monday he has no basis for judging the accuracy of a Human Rights Watch report claiming 500 civilian casualties, in 90 incidents, in the NATO bombing.
He said every recommended target was reviewed to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. "We dont want to see any innocent people harmed, and we took extraordinary care to achieve those results," Cohen said.
"No military operation of such size has ever inflicted less damage on unintended targets," the Pentagon report said. "The ongoing assessments and analysis clearly show that while there were instances where collateral damage occurred, it was minimized by use of precise and accurate weapons."