A 'hindrance to operations': extracts from the leaked reports

Monday January 3, 2000

The "reliability, robustness and 'suppressive capability"' of the light support weapon used in Kosovo was considered "insufficient", said Lt-Col Gibson's report.

At night, troops worked more slowly than desired because they were not all equipped with night vision devices.

Battle communications were a "hindrance to operations".

Radio operators resorted to using code words and "nick numbers" to disguise sensitive security details because their broadcasts could be overheard by anyone with the right equipment.

The Clansman radio equipment is "old and unreliable" with up to 35% of the units being repaired at any one time.

The communications problems were made subject of an urgent request for a secure replacement system, but the equipment was "not made available to the BG (battle group) before it left theatre," says Lt-Col Gibson's report.

Brig Freer added that the communications situation was "unworkable" for "anything other than a totally benign environment".

On ground-to-air communications, he wrote: "We were fortunate that an inadequate system was not put to the test."

Tactical intelligence available to the battle groups during the operation in Kosovo was "disappointing", according to the leaked reports.

"Considerable intelligence products were available to Nato but these were not disseminated to BG (battle group) level," they say.

"In particular, imagery obtained during the air campaign was over classified and consequently not released to BGs."

They were also denied access to officers with local knowledge, such as those who had served on earlier Nato stints in Kosovo.

A lack of communication meant the families of serving personnel heard deployment details through the media rather than through official sources.

Families found out about the initial deployment from the BBC 24 to 36 hours before soldiers had the decision confirmed by their chain of command.

A lack of equipment led to soldiers sleeping on floors and rarely being able to take a shower during deployment in Pristina.

Many troops purchased their own solar shower bags and camp beds "to improve their living conditions", said the leaked reports.

Members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment bought their own global positioning satellite receivers because there were not enough to go around.

There was also a shortage of other items of equipment, such as "plasticuffs" for use in public order situations.

One of the reports seems to suggest that "spin-doctoring" of the Kosovo campaign by the ministry of defence led to a lot of time being wasted.

Lt-Col Gibson wrote that while most media coverage was supportive, "on the few occasions when adverse articles might have been written, there seemed to be concern and subsequently disproportionate command and staff effort expended over the potential implications of such articles.

"This may be a product of MOD 'spin-doctoring'.

"Commanders and staff need to be much more positive in the face of the media."

Lt-Col Gibson advocated full co-operation with the media and said "black-listing" of news organisations who were not supportive "denied them access to stories and was an effective solution".

"Soldiers dealing within the BG were continually briefed on the pitfalls when dealing with the press. Experience suggested that journalists are usually delighted to be spoon-fed with direction, advice and, on occasions, copy."

A delay in dividing responsibilities between the national forces and K-For "meant that soldiers were initially operating in something of a vacuum which lasted for several days", said the reports.

The chain of command left much to be desired. Brigadier Freer commented: "A clear chain of command is a basic principle of military operations and the blurred lines which existed only served to cause confusion."

The "confused and fractured" lines of command "may have had a damaging effect on morale", adds the report.

The situation eroded troops' confidence in the chain of command and had the potential to place individual soldiers in "an invidious position".

Legal powers
Soldiers in Operation Agricola were not made aware of their legal powers before being deployed in Pristina, says one of the reports.

It paints a picture of a confused and legally toothless military force.

The report adds: "Appropriate advice was slow to arrive. Advice often dodged the issue referring the matter back to the judgment of the soldier on the ground.

"There was much discussion about law and legal procedures but little application of justice. There seemed to be a great fear of both adverse publicity and the possibility of future litigation. Suspected war criminals could only be detained for a few hours before they had to be released."

Lt-Col Gibson added that the Albanian community, in particular, meted out violence on Serbs "sure in the knowledge that the BG (battle group) was impotent to do anything to stop them".,2763,118619,00.html

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