Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 583 - 599)




  583. Thank you very much for coming. As you know, we are well into our inquiry on the lessons of Kosovo, and you have a more than passing interest in those crucial events. We have a very long list of questions, and we are all, especially myself, having to avoid Celtic verbosity, which will be rather difficult in my case, but there are no such inhibitions on you. Some of the questions will be applicable to both of you and a minority of questions will be specific to one or the other. We are being televised and the press are here, so we are looking forward to what you have to say. Are there any introductory remarks you would like to make on the subject?

  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Chairman, no thank you very much. We will take it from there.

  584. I have instructed all Committee members not to ask you any questions on whether you have any literary aspirations. That is absolutely verboten. I will not ask that question. A question to each of you in turn: when did each of your headquarters first become involved in contingency planning for Kosovo?
  (Major General Reith) I was at SHAPE Headquarters in 1998 on 7 May, and in fact General Mike and myself were both called in by SACEUR, and it was decided to put a recce team into Albania. I led the recce team with a group of staff from my headquarters and from the ARRC headquarters, a combined team, and went via AF South in Naples, where we picked up additional staff and went into Albania. We were there for five days.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) You heard we were both at the same major gathering in SHAPE of NATO commanders, which happens once a year; it is a form of study period and discussion. It was on those two days—I think 4 and 5 May—when it first became clear that events in Kosovo were deteriorating and that therefore NATO may become involved. You have heard the action that was taken from General John Reith. As a result, my own headquarters, the Rapid Reaction Corps, to answer your question briefly, became involved in planning from early May 1998 onwards, and it was then a constant backdrop—I say backdrop; sometimes the forefront—of our life thereafter until we actually did deploy some nine or ten months later.

  585. Of course, both NATO and the UN are renowned for the precise instructions they give to their commanding officers. When you became involved, who gave you your direction and was that direction crystal clear?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Of course, you will be aware of the machinery of NATO. Formal planning requires, of course, the authority of the North Atlantic Council, but prudence obviously requires thinking to be done about contingencies and possibilities. There were a number of iterations of what we might or might not be asked to do during the summer of 1998 and the early autumn. We will no doubt get to the Holbrooke deal of October in due course. At that stage, of course, it was not known that there would be any actual involvement at all, and we were looking at contingencies. I think that went well, and clearly I have no difficulty with that at all. I had planning teams both working at SHAPE in Mons and indeed in Naples, Headquarters Allied Forces South.

  586. But you were not authorised to do that planning; it was just thinking aloud.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) That sounds as though we were doing something which was unauthorised. That would be the wrong interpretation. The formal machinery requires the North Atlantic Council to institute planning in particular circumstances, which results, of course, in a plan which is approved by the Council. But there are many things which may happen before it gets to that formal stage. Perhaps "informal/formal" is a better way of putting it than "authorised/unauthorised".

  587. I would be appalled if the military only thought about the possibility of conflict the moment their political leadership worked up the courage to ask them, so I am delighted that you were actually doing something even though at that stage you had not been formally requested.
  (Major General Reith) When I went into Albania I had been tasked by SACEUR personally, and what I went to do was to look at the infrastructure of the country, the ability for the main port at Durres and the airport and any other ports or airports for bringing troops in and so forth, and logistically sustaining a force, but also to look up on the northern border area, round Kukes and up to Tropolje to see what military action might be possible both in terms of assisting Albania against any Serb incursion were it to occur, but also looking at whether later we might possibly want to block any arms movement across the border from the Albanians to support the Kosovar Albanians internally. At that stage, of course, nobody knew how the situation was going to develop. I also went about three weeks later, again with a combined team, into FYROM. I did the same there, although the mandate was slightly different, because it was at the time when there was doubt whether the mandate for the UN force was going to be continued, looking at whether NATO might have to put something in to maintain the stability in the area.

  588. You did not at that very early stage concern yourself too much with what would happen if there were a vast influx of refugees or to bring in stuff by ship or by building roads, etc?
  (Major General Reith) No. Clearly, nobody at that stage could have imagined the influx of refugees from Kosovo that occurred. What we were looking at was just prudent contingency planning so that we would be able to insert a force into the theatre of operations should it become necessary.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I think it is worth remarking—this sometimes seems to be forgotten—that the events of the summer of 1998 were pretty gruesome events as well, with the increasing level of violence being offered by the KLA resulting in extremely disproportionate responses by the Serb security forces, and during that summer there was a very large number of displaced persons within Kosovo. If my memory serves me right, I think we were looking at a figure of some 50,000 already being displaced outside Kosovo. So the refugee story does not start at Easter 1999, but at Easter 1998; you almost have to go back that far.

  589. What were the aims and objectives stated to you? What military options were you instructed to examine once the word got down to you about planning?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I think there were a number of approaches because, again, what we would be required to do would be a result of the political decision-making, of course, over what strategy to adopt. The focus of our planning during the summer of 1998 in the Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters—and this, as I say, was in very close concert with the planners at SHAPE and the planners at Allied Forces South—was to think through what would be required for some form of implementation force to actually put into effect a form of "Dayton Mark 2", if I can put it in that way, because I think people were, very sensibly, looking back at the Bosnian experience and the conflict resolution process there and what we might be able to use from that. I am not saying Kosovo was the same; far from it, but there is some common ground. That was the focus of the planning: to come up with a design for a force and what it might be required to do, what the putative tasks might be, to actually go into Kosovo and implement some form of political settlement, agreement, whatever.
  (Major General Reith) My own headquarters in the autumn of 1998 were involved with planning for Albania to stop the flow of arms into Kosovo. Thereafter we were not involved. It clearly was becoming a task too big for the size of my force, and it switched completely across to the ARRC. It was only then, right at the last moment, that I got involved in the plan for the humanitarian mission in Albania in April 1999.

  590. Were the planning guidelines you were issued with sufficiently flexible to encompass the entire spectrum of activities? How sophisticated was the planning process?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Chairman, I think you are implying that we were in some way constrained or sat upon. I do not think that is a fair description. You remarked yourself that it is prudent for soldiers to look at the "what ifs", to ask, "Which way might this go and what might be required?" As I say, the vast weight of emphasis was how to build an implementation force: what would it look like, and what would it have to do? That was the thrust of the planning over the summer of 1998. Circumstances changed in the autumn. The Holbrooke deal of October changed the circumstances, and no doubt we will move on to that, but I have restricted my remarks so far to that preliminary planning which took place during the summer of 1998.

  591. What planning assumptions were you given in respect of the anticipated duration of the operations and the length of time both headquarters could expect to be deployed?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) In terms of duration, no end date, as the cry came from Bosnia—I think we had all learned a lesson from Bosnia that end dates do not, frankly, mean very much at all. That was not a consideration. The consideration was, as I have said, what sort of force and what sort of tasks. As to the duration of ARRC's deployment, that was not our gift of course. The ARRC had done very nearly a full calendar year in Bosnia in 1996—actually from just before Christmas 1995 through November 1996. In looking at that afterwards it was felt, I think not on selfish grounds but on properly judged grounds, that it was probably a bit long for the initial headquarters, because towards the end of a period of time like that people are getting both individually and collectively somewhat tired. We rather hoped that this time it would not be for a year, but obviously no such guarantee could be offered, and we were prepared for a year if need be. In the event, depending quite when we deployed, it was seven to seven and a half months, which was probably about right.

Mr Viggers

  592. Were there any constraints applied to your planning—I am thinking not of the initial stage—in terms of the number of troops that you might expect to have under your commands and the number of countries with whom you would expect to have cooperation?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) No. If I may, can I approach the question in the way that we do these things? There is a great military intellectual process known as the estimate, where one actually goes through in a rigorous way an analysis of what the factors are, what the tasks are, what the constraints may be, obviously the political backdrop, all of that, as a result of which you design a force to carry out the mission and the tasks which you think you may be given for this particular planning exercise. It is therefore possible through this process to come up with a force structure, a force size, and that is what we did over that summer of 1998, and came up with a model peace implementation force somewhat along the lines of IFOR as it initially was in Bosnia, but not slavishly following that, and indeed rather smaller, but then Kosovo is very much smaller than Bosnia. In fact, that estimate came out at about 25,000 people on a five brigade structure. That was very carefully matched to the administrative boundaries within Kosovo. There are five sub-divisions within the province, and it is very important if you can, obviously, to match military administrative boundaries. That is how we arrived at the figure. There was no cap or anything like that. This was an intellectual exercise to say "What do we need to do this job?" If I may turn to the second part of your question, the multinational aspect of it, we then get into the machinery which is run from SHAPE known as force generation whereby this structure of the putative force is all serialised by units and capabilities, and there is then a form of auction sale, if you like, where nations say, "I will take this one. I will take that one." At the end of the day you see if all lots are bid for, and if not you go round again until every serial on the force table is taken up. That again is exactly what happened in two or three stages as time went on. I am sorry that is such a long answer, but putting together a multinational force is not a simple business, of course.

  593. But were you constrained in your planning by thinking that you could deploy through certain countries and not others?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) We carried out some careful reconnaissances during the summer of 1998 and, of course, one of the most important factors in any force commander's mind is going to be his line of communications and his logistic capability. In any such scenario a major seaport is absolutely essential. Looking at that part of the world, there was initially, I think, a view that the neatest way of doing this would be through Albania, using the port of Durres and the road which runs east into Kosovo. General Reith has already said that he did this recce, and we used his findings, and it is very clear that the Albanian infrastructure is limited and in a poor condition. Simply that line of communication would have given an enormous number of problems. We also carried out a reconnaissance of northern Greece, where you have the very large sea port of Thessaloniki, with an international airport, a dual carriageway road and a railway running north into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and onwards to Kosovo. This was, as I say, prudent reconnaissance to work out where we would lay down our logistic carpet. At this stage, of course, the question of whether those host nations would be prepared for this had not arisen. This is not a military problem per se. This is obviously a diplomatic parallel track which needs to be done. I hope that answers the question.

  594. Yes, thank you. What about your part in this planning procedure, General Reith?
  (Major General Reith) Mine was very similar. We were going through the estimate processes for a series of contingencies through 1998. When I was finally given direction that we were probably going into Albania, we went through exactly the same process. Again, I had no limitations. We had all the information we needed from the previous reconnaissances, so in Heidelberg I was able to put together my own concept of operations and the force required. We then went out to Albania to do the final detailed reconnaissance, and of course, subsequently, other than to attend the force generation conference, I never came back because it was so pressing. I obviously delivered my concept of operations at the force generation conference at SHAPE, and then the various nations put up their offers, and by and large, other than some engineers, all my requirements were fulfilled.

  595. Were you satisfied that you had access to all the information and intelligence you required to carry out your planning, and where did you get your intelligence and information from?
  (Major General Reith) I was quite satisfied that all the information and intelligence I needed was available. NATO has a wide area network called CRONOS which gave me immediate access to every single piece of intelligence information that NATO holds from whatever source.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I was well served.

  596. Were you satisfied with the diplomatic parallel track that you referred to? How did you liaise with the diplomatic track? How did you put up your requests for information you might receive? Were you satisfied that you were able to get a timely response on that?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) We are still in the planning phase? That is the context of your question?

  597. Yes.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) The political parallel track is taken care of really quite simply, because at SHAPE there is a notable and sizeable political staff whose job it is to ensure that the diplomatic track, the political track, does indeed run in parallel. If we fast-forward in time a little bit, we come to the Holbrooke deal, we come to NATO's decision to deploy a small—but again, significant in its deployment—extraction force to FYROM, and of course, the negotiations with that country and the government of that country were conducted to allow that small force to enter in the closing months of 1998. Subsequently, of course, a much larger force, KFOR, started in early 1999. So it worked. I have no difficulty there, and I am sure the same mechanisms were used for the diplomatic clearance for NATO's deployment into Albania.

Laura Moffatt

  598. This is a question to both, but to you first, General Jackson, please. I believe you said earlier that putting together a multinational force was not a simple business, rightly so. Were all of those nations represented in your headquarters privy to the planning process?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. The ARRC headquarters is a standing headquarters. It has its establishment table, as we call it, which lays down what all the posts are and all the rest of it. Each one of those posts is flagged, as the cry has it, ie it is annotated against a nation. It is what is known as a framework nation headquarters, with the United Kingdom providing those framework nation responsibilities. In effect, this is about 60% of the headquarters as a whole. Sixty per cent British therefore, and 40% other NATO nations, and indeed, the only two nations which are not represented in the headquarters of the ARRC are Iceland and Luxembourg. We do have a liaison officer from France. Within the headquarters it works as a unified whole. We work to NATO classifications, and therefore all have access to what is going on inside that headquarters, and I think this is very important; nations need to feel that they understand that there is transparency, because they may become involved, their soldiers may become at risk as a result of what is going on. That is actually a very good check and balance in the system.

  599. So every nation that had the opportunity to be involved in the planning process took up that opportunity?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) No, I cannot answer the question in the way you put it. Forgive me. The people whose job it is to plan—it is not a national thing; it is an individual thing. My planning teamwas headed by a British full colonel. I have said60 per cent of the posts are British, but in his planning team there were at least three nations in addition to the United Kingdom represented. The results of the planning are available throughout the whole headquarters.

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