Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)



  120. I am sure you chose your words very carefully, we will need to look at them and maybe come back to you on that. Did you have at your disposal sufficient military means to achieve the objectives that you were set?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes, I did.

  121. The right number of aircraft?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes. I will ask Air Commodore Torpy to explain the process because I think it is important to understand the process whereby NATO calls for assets. In short, we responded to a NATO requirement, we UK, and I was then given the task, with those assets, as part of a coalition operation.
  (Air Commodore Torpy) As I touched on earlier, what happens in the NATO planning process is that NATO draws up what is called a Statement of Requirement and that identifies the capabilities that are required. That is then circulated to nations and nations are invited to offer the assets that they believe will fulfil that particular requirement. Having done that, if there are subsequently gaps then NATO clearly recirculates and says "there are gaps in X, Y and Z, would you like to reconsider?" That is the process that we went through and it was decided that we were going to provide the assets that we actually did.

  122. Did NATO actually ask the French to provide more aircraft than the UK or was it that the French had more aircraft available to them than we did?
  (Air Commodore Torpy) It was what nations individually wished to offer.

  123. And we did not wish to offer any more?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) The Ministry of Defence decided to offer what they did. What the French offered is, of course, a matter for the French.

  124. That must be one of the classic responses, I really must write that down. You have been through the Richard Mottram school of diplomatic answers. I really must tax you on that. We were told last week that our forces were over-stretched and we are going to the Gulf in a couple of weeks and we have seen British forces all around the world, in the Falklands. Was it not simply the fact that what we offered was all that was available and actually worked? Did not the limited number of aircraft we offered indicate how parlous the state of the Royal Air Force is in the light of the pressures placed upon it, otherwise as a country with a rather stronger commitment to NATO's integrated military structure than the French, whose commitment has been zero since the mid-1960s, would it not have been feasible if we had the resources available that we would have been the second largest contributor to the air operations?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Chairman, I sit before you as the Chief of Joint Operations and, as I mentioned last time I was here, my responsibility is to carry out my mission as directed by CDS with the assets that I am given. The extent to which the Ministry of Defence within the Government wishes to declare national assets is a matter for them.

  125. That is pretty clear to me, I think I have got the answer. So you say you did have the assets necessary to meet what the objectives were or the objectives set for you by the Ministry of Defence?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes, I did.

Mr Hancock

  126. Did the objectives change during that time in the early days?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) The fundamental objectives did not change.

  127. You did not ask for them to be changed because of the inadequacies of equipment?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) No. The air campaign was developed the whole time. I would like to turn to Air Commodore Morris who was very much a part of that and he can explain how the campaign adapted to the circumstances. The overall objectives as I saw them, for me, remained the same.
  (Air Commodore Morris) I think it is very clear to people now the way the campaign was initially put together with its phased approach. It was comparatively limited in scope. That was agreed by the NATO partners. Of course, we could not interpret initially as to what Milosevic's reaction would be. There is the old adage that no plan actually survives first contact with the enemy. Therefore, we had to anticipate that we would have to be adaptable and flexible in the way that we went about our campaign planning. It was a continuous process. It was very much an activity that was going on throughout the whole of the campaign to ensure that we could meet our overall objectives. We were actively involved in that with all the other NATO partners within the Combined Air Operations Centre in Italy and, of course, at other higher levels in NATO and so on.


  128. If one of the objectives was to use precision guided munitions, how come we did not use all that we had?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) All that we had?

  129. What percentage of the stock available was actually used?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I cannot give you an answer now but I could let you have a note.

  Chairman: If you would not mind, thank you.

Mr Viggers

  130. Was there any bilateral contingency planning or was all contingency planning through NATO?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) All contingency planning was in response to NATO requirements and done through NATO.

  131. So when the request came down from NATO, would there have been bilateral discussions between, say, the United Kingdom and the United States about who would provide assets for this particular NATO request?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) There may well have been discussions between the Ministry of Defence and the Pentagon but I was not party to them, I was not a part of them.

  132. To what extent in the end did you feel that you had ownership of, or influence over, the plans for the involvement of the UK forces in Kosovo?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Me personally or on behalf of the UK?

  133. You and your headquarters.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) There was constant liaison between my headquarters and other operational level headquarters. As you know, we are part of the Defence Crisis Management Organisation and we had twice daily video teleconferences with the Ministry of Defence. Part of that conference included our military delegation in Brussels, so that was an opportunity for me, as part of that discussion, to influence the debate through our military delegation. We had close and continuous liaison with General Jackson, COMARRC in theatre. We had Air Commodore Morris in the Air Operations Centre, the NATO Air Operations Centre in Italy. We had continuous discussions with Admiral Haskins who was the American Admiral in Naples running one aspect of the operation, particularly the TLAM operations. So through my staff we were able to influence NATO thinking, but in the end the NATO plan was influenced more at the higher level through the North Atlantic Council and the military committee.

  134. You told us that planning for the air and land campaign began in May 1998, yet I think you must have heard public statements that NATO Allies expected to achieve their objectives by the use of the air campaign alone. How did you feel about that?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think I would go back to the phased campaign. I suspect that NATO hoped that through phase one of the campaign it could achieve its objectives, although we all understood that we might be in it for the long haul. People who say they hoped it would be all over in two days were probably hoping, or perhaps expecting, erroneously in retrospect, that phase one would achieve the objectives; in the end it did not.

  135. But you were planning for the land campaign throughout this whole period?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes. There was a phased air campaign, three phases, and we knew that we might have to go on through all three phases until Milosevic decided to accede to our demands.

  136. So the phasing that you have described, was that intended to have three phases from the beginning?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) Yes, it was. Could I ask Air Commodore Torpy to explain a little more about the phasing.
  (Air Commodore Torpy) If you include some of the preparatory exercises in which you will recall that we took part, you could say that the campaign was four phases. There was a demonstration of NATO intent where we flew big exercise packages around the borders of Kosovo and then when we got into the live operation it was intended to be a graduated campaign to increase the pressure on Milosevic. The first phase was clearly to produce an environment that we could carry on follow-on operations in. The main effort was concentrated on the integrated air defence system, command and control targets, and that was intended to extend further into Serbia as the operation progressed to increase the intensity.

  137. But it was known at an early stage that an opposed land invasion would require a significant number of troops. Were you content to continue with the air campaign knowing that those troops were not available at that point?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I was content to be part of the NATO air campaign. Eventually when I received directions, and in response to what was happening in NATO, we had to start planning for ground operations although, as I said earlier, we had been looking at various ground options from the middle of 1998.

  138. Would it not have strengthened the NATO hand to make it clear that ground operations were at an advanced stage of planning?
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think, as General Guthrie said last week, what was possible in the NATO context had to be a reflection of the need to maintain Alliance cohesion. If a number of NATO members were not prepared at the early stage to sign up to a ground option publicly clearly that would constrain what could be put out publicly. Individual nations, ourselves included, were doing illustrative campaign planning of various ground options so we would be prepared to influence a NATO decision to go in on the ground when it came about.

  139. Speaking for myself, I applaud what was done and the manner in which it was achieved but I feel some sense of unease that we, members of the public, found ourselves misled by a military which in fact was planning for a ground invasion without admitting that it was planning for a ground invasion.
  (Vice Admiral Sir Ian Garnett) I think there is a difference between carrying out illustrative campaign planning on possible ground options in order to establish what we might be required to provide and the time it might take to provide those forces and NATO deciding to go for a ground option. At my level we were carrying out, under the MoD direction, sensible, illustrative, what-if contingency plans in order to allow the Ministry of Defence to be prepared to influence the NATO debate when it came about.

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