Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600 - 619)



  600. Was all the intelligence and information freely exchanged? Did you have any difficulty with that at all?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) On the intelligence side, no. As I have said, I was well served. No complaints.

  601. So you believe that no nations withheld any information whatsoever?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I have no way of knowing that. If they withheld it, I would not know about it presumably.

  602. Even after the event?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I have no knowledge of nations being squirrel-like with information privy to them.
  (Major General Reith) My experience is very much the same. Clearly, all of the nations have access to what is going on in Brussels, they have the same at SHAPE, and in my own headquarters, which was a NATO common funded headquarters, with 14 nations represented, my planning staff was headed by a German, with three other nations involved, one of them being British, and again, within my headquarters there is a senior representative from each of the nations represented, and they are at liberty, obviously on a secure basis, to pass information back to their own masters within their ministries of defence. Also, if anybody was unhappy with what we were doing, we would get the message back through the individual saying, "Can we look at this again?" So it is a free-flowing process, and it works very well.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Could I just add something? It is not strictly relevant to the question, but for the avoidance of doubt, I have explained the structure of the headquarters of the Rapid Reaction Corps. If I may, because I once served in it, the headquarters of the Allied Mobile Force (Land), which John commanded at the time, is not a framework nation headquarters. It is multinational right across, and the commander varies nation to nation in a rotational way. It was the way the cards come off the pack that we had another British officer commanding another deployed NATO force last year.
  (Major General Reith) It is a six-nation rotation. I took over from an American and I handed over to a Canadian.


  603. Whatever happened to ARRC South? Had there been one in existence, would that have changed the planning process?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) That is a very interesting question. After the ARRC's deployment to Bosnia in 1996 to which I have already referred, NATO did not find it easy to put together a successor headquarters for IFOR, now SFOR in Sarajevo. Dare I say it, I think also it was noted that the ARRC was well organised, well trained, well set up to go and do that job. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that, there was quite a mood in NATO in 1997, looking back on that first year of Bosnian deployment, that we needed another Rapid Reaction headquarters pitched at this level, but of course, it takes a lot to put something like that together, and I would argue—not all would, but I would—that the complexity of it is such and the support required is such that it would be extremely difficult to achieve it without a framework nation approach, but that means you need a framework nation. I think people were beginning to look to France during 1997 as a possible candidate for a lead nation role in a second Rapid Reaction Corps, but of course, at Madrid at the end of that year France decided against reintegration into the military structure, so the issue somewhat went away. Now it has re-emerged because the ARRC went off again, and once more, it was not easy to put together a successor headquarters. NATO is, of course, now right in the middle of a force structure review, and it would not surprise me at all if there is now a formal statement of a desire to have a second or even a third Rapid Reaction Corps headquarters.

  604. In conclusion on this section, in terms of international planning and co-operation at this early stage, either we did not ask the right questions or you are being incredibly diplomatic or—what I hope— everything worked really brilliantly. Do you have the slightest reservations about the way the structures were set up in this very early stage of what was to become a conflict?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Are we talking about before deployment now?

  605. Yes. If you had your time over again, would you have advised things to be done rather differently, at this very early stage?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) It is very difficult to give you a concrete example where I do think we ought to have taken a different road or whatever. I am speaking for myself and my own headquarters here. We come to October, to the first crescendo, which resulted in Mr Holbrooke arriving in his usual spectacular style, and coming back from Belgrade with his agreement for the unarmed monitors under the OSCE. Perhaps with hindsight one might have said that this could only buy a certain amount of time, that this could not be in any way a lasting solution, because unarmed monitors at the end of the day can only act as moderators, as dampeners down. They cannot actually themselves coerce behaviour. But equally well in October 1998 there was not the collective political will to go further than that. It may sound complacent—I hope not—but looking back, it is very difficult to see how things might have gone another way, or even that we would have wished them to go another way at that point.
  (Major General Reith) I think that the prudent planning began in a timely way. We had the baseline detail we needed for further planning, and we had obviously a moving target through 1998 and into 1999, and we had to keep adapting estimates for different tasks that might come up. But in the circumstances, I think it went extremely well.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I would perhaps add, Chairman, that once the Holbrooke deal was done, my own headquarters came off the immediate hook as a result. We then, as was already planned, engaged in a very ambitious war fighting rather than peace implementation exercise, which we had been wondering whether to do or not, and Kosovo slightly went on the back burner as far as we were concerned, but obviously we tracked it extremely carefully and watched it. When it came to January and it became clear that the situation was deteriorating, and of course, we had the perhaps watershed event of the Racak massacre, it was actually very simple indeed just to change gear back upwards and take it from there.

Mr Gapes

  606. Can I take you back to the period before October 1998 and the contingency planning. Can I first of all ask what conclusions you drew from that planning.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) The conclusions of the plan or from the planning process?

  607. You tell me about both.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I am not quite sure what you are driving at. Could you help me?

  608. What I am driving at is, as you went through this process, you talked about moving targets. As you were drawing out your conclusions, did you come to a particular point where you thought, "This is what we need to do"?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. Certainly by summer leave in 1998 we had a draft structure, we had a draft plan. There were many variables which we had not pinned down at that stage, of course, because we did not know what they were going to be. In terms of a conceptual approach, what the tasks were, what forces would be needed to do that, how we would go about our business, where the flashpoints may be, all of this work we did and we had a draft and fairly detailed plan, as I say, by the time of summer leave 1998.

  609. The North Atlantic Council had made a decision earlier that year. General Clark had asked Major General Reith to go in May. When you had made your assessment, did you have a view that what you were being asked to do was practical? Was it what the politicians, the political side, NATO, was actually requiring, or did you think that you needed to go much further than that?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) No. As I said, the focus for 1998—and indeed, it remained that until perhaps May of last year—was how to put together and how to operate a peace implementation force which would put into effect whatever agreement may be achieved between the various parties involved in the Kosovo conflict, and that is what we did. I do not think I can add anything to that. I think I am missing the point. I am very sorry.

  610. Can I try some other questions. How much did you engage in operational analysis and war-gaming to test the validity of the conclusions that you were coming to before you presented them?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) It is difficult to war-game in that sense a peace support operation, because, by definition, there is no enemy as such, neither is ground of itself of importance, as it is on a conventional battlefield. You are actually operating amongst people's perceptions, people's attitudes. That is your operational arena, not a piece of ground with a conventional enemy. It is quite hard to war-game it in the sort of statistical way which you can do for a straight war fight. That said, the ARRC has within its headquarters an operational analysis branch of about six people, if I remember rightly, who are equipped with the right information technology and certain computer programmes so that they can go through, so far as it is possible, an empirical test of whatever plan you set out. That is much easier to do, as I say, for a conventional fight than it is for a peace support operation, but there are ways that one can test it to some extent, and of course we did. We also exercised ourselves through this during that summer.

  611. When did you present your conclusions and to whom did you present them?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Our findings on the force structure, task concept, all of that—I cannot remember distinctly, but I have used the phrase "comfortably before summer leave in 1998", and I imagine summer leave was August or thereabouts. The way we take leave at the Headquarters is in two halves, so you always have a foot on the ground. We would have presented them both to SHAPE and to Allied Forces South in Naples.

  612. How many military options did you come up with in those conclusions? Could you tell us what they were?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) We came to a single plan. As you come towards the end of the estimate process, what comes out are a number of courses of action.

  613. How many were there?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Within the context of a peace implementation force—I think we are at cross-purposes. There are ways of doing things, but what is to be done does not change, and I have to reiterate that what was to be done was to put a peace implementation force into Kosovo to carry out whatever. We did not have an agreement at that stage, so we did not know what the terms of the agreement were, but we were using some collective experience from Bosnia, and thinking how it may modify itself in Kosovo. In terms of courses of action, it was a matter of whether we put in a two-star level of command, a divisional level of command, whether we did or did not follow administrative boundaries, whether we re-jigged the size of the force in a different command and control way, but this, frankly, is in-house business. It is not a strategic choice in the way I think you are pushing me.

  614. You did not come up with a conclusion that said, "There are different things we could do. We could go this way, we could go that way. Our advice is that we go this way, but nevertheless there are alternative ways to do this"?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) No, I do not think so, because within the planning task at that stage there is not that amount of strategic choice. We talked about where we would lay down the logistics. Would we come in through Albania or come in through northern Greece and FYROM? That was a very clear choice to be made. But in terms of what we were about, the overall mission, no.

  615. Can I move on. What numbers and types of forces did you state that you would require to execute your plan? That is a question for either of you or both of you.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Again, as I have said, we have this rigorous intellectual process, which is designed to give you the answers you need. I have already said that we pitched a force level against the potential mission which we believed was proper to do the job: about 25,000 divided into five brigades. That was the answer. What we did not know were aspects like whether we were going to have to do border security, whether the operational area would extend into northern Albania for the single force. Until those questions were answered, because they would involve a different force level, you could only say, "If you want us to do that as well, this will need this bit more."

  616. How much more would that have involved?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) For northern Albania? I think we were looking for a further brigade of three battalions, if my memory serves me correctly.

  617. In which countries did you envisage that it would be necessary to deploy your forces? You have mentioned Albania.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) We looked at Albania, we looked at northern Greece. I have gone through that logistic process over the logistic carpet. If this is what you are pushing me into, other than a look at the map, we did not look at Romania or Bulgaria as a possible line of communication. You can deploy through the Black Sea ports, but frankly, you have further to go, you have the Bosphorus, with all the sensitivities of that particular waterway.


  618. We tried that once. It did not work.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Chairman, Turkey was and still is, I believe, a NATO ally.

  619. I am going back further than that.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Those obviously were discounted.

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