Examination of Witnesses (Questions 640
WEDNESDAY 10 MAY 2000
640. Can I complete this group of questions
by asking General Reith this: where were you and what were you
doing during autumn 1990?
(Major General Reith) I effectively stood down from
this operation other than monitoring, because my headquarters
is only designed to command a smaller force, and we had clearly
reached a scale, if there was going to be any intervention into
Kosovo itself, that we would not be commanding, and therefore
the focus turned more to the ARRC. Similarly to General Mike,
I was monitoring what was going on in case I was needed for anything
else or I became a subordinate command within that force. I obviously,
as I said before, had full access to everything within NATO, and
again various national systems, because my intelligence centre
within the AMF(L) is run by the UK intelligence organisation.
So I had access to everything in exactly the same way and was
641. If things had suddenly got worse, as eventually
they did, who was going to carry on building the roads, improving
the airport, building an airfield or two, the kind of thing that
one might have to do if a shooting match really began? If you
are out of the frame, who would come in to do the work?
(Major General Reith) No. As I say, I was only out
of the frame, but we were monitoring. We had been involved in
the planning process throughout, so I knew what was going on.
As it transpired, I was required to go in at very short notice
into Albania to do exactly that: to build roads and take over
the airport and the port and so forth, and build refugee camps.
But you must remember, I did not own the forces. I was just a
headquarters, but my headquarters was held at 72 hours' notice
to move, and as it transpired, we moved within four days, and
we could have moved faster; we had all the equipment, I had all
the personnel I needed, but clearly, there was not a requirement
to move until the fourth day rather than the third.
642. When I visited your headquarters I did
have the impression that for any of your subsequent careers Wimpey
would have been a fine option because you were building more than
I have ever seen any private British company doing in terms of
(Major General Reith) What I would say there is, although
we were providing the manpower and the expertise, we were working
with the NGOs in all the building we were doing, and the NGOs
were producing the money and then taking ownership of the work
we had done after we had left, and it worked very well.
Chairman: Thank you. We will now move
on to problems of deployment in March-June 1999. We have been
subject to slight mission creep and it is our fault, not yours.
643. General Jackson, were you anxious to deploy
in February 1999?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Having lived with Kosovo
for nearly a year at that stage, with it being pretty much at
the forefront for most of that year, I think I can honestly say,
speaking for the headquarters as a whole, that there was almost
a sense of relief when we actually got moving.
644. My understanding is that a NATO activation
order is necessary in order to provide the operational funding.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Correct.
645. Was there a hiccup in the issuing?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes, there was.
646. Could you explain that to us please?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Forgive me, this will take
a moment or two because it is less than simple, as some of these
things are. You will recall the Racak massacre I think was on
the 20, maybe 24 January,
late January, and was, as I say, probably a watershed event and
if not the main driver of Rambouillet certainly was one of the
drivers that led to that conference. Now, Rambouillet was seen
inevitably as a form of Dayton and had it succeeded it might well
have been quite a close parallel to Dayton. There would almost
inevitably I think have been huge political pressure had Rambouillet
succeeded for very fast action on the ground to begin to lock
in in a tangible way the provisions of whatever agreement. Certain
nations therefore decided to get ready in case Rambouillet did
succeed and such a rapid move was required France had already
taken "framework nation" responsibilities for the small
extraction force, which I mentioned earlier, which was deployed
into Northern Macedonia in November/December in support of the
unarmed verifiers in Kosovo itself. France had a battalion and
a brigade headquarters already there. We, Britain, had a small
contribution as the Germans did to this very small force. It was
decided by certain nations, that was Britain, France, Italy and
Germany, to increase their in place forces in Macedonia. Each
of them had a brigade headquarters there and a largish battalion.
These decisions were taken nationally. There was not, at this
stage, an Alliance decision to deploy such a force. Also, there
was an American battalion already in Macedonia which had been
there for several years as part of UNPREDEPthe UN Preventative
Deployment forcea standing force which had been on the
border between FYROM and Yugoslavia in a deterrent role. The mandate
for that force expired on 28 February 1999 through a slightly
bizarre set of circumstances where, if I remember rightly, FYROM
had recently recognised Taiwan, and China therefore vetoed the
extension of the mandate in the Security Council, as mainland
China policy. Therefore, also, we had an American 1 Star headquarters,
an American battalion. HQ ARRC was then deployed, or elements
of it, whilst Rambouillet was still running in order to provide
co-ordination of these national forces but it was co-ordination
in terms of allocation of real estate and logistic deconfliction,
liaison with the FYROM Government, etc. The main body of the ARRC
then deployed in March, the third week in March, as it appeared
that Rambouillet was heading into the sands. You are right that
no activation order was issued. Now this is a formal mechanism
by which the North Atlantic Council embodied a force, so this
we were all on a bit of an informal basis down there but it worked
well enough. You are absolutely right, one of the things that
also comes with an activation order is operational NATO funding
and that did give us a problem, without a doubt.
647. That accounts for the impression that might
have been gained in some quarters that there having been some
delay, when deployment did take place it took place, as it were,
with unseemly haste because the diplomatic procedures were not
proceeding exactly in parallel with the military ones?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I think that is a perception,
if I may say so, unseemly haste. Clearly you have to get the circumstances
of when a deployment makes sense. I think what people hoped, of
course, was that during that winter, the moderating influence
of the KVFthe Kosovo Verification Missionwould do
just that and that we would not necessarily have to go the next
step up. The hope was ill-founded as I am afraid events showed
but I understand why that hope was there.
648. What reception did you get from the former
Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia? What reception did you get
(General Sir Mike Jackson) FYROM had accepted the
small extraction force in November of 1998. Then they accepted
these nationally deployed forces which I have spoken about which
started to arrive in February or thereabouts and then my own headquarters
and, of course, from those very modest beginnings, that nucleus
of KFOR grew to the point where on entry in June, we had got to
about 16 or 17,000, off the top of my head, something of that
order. The Government of FYROM are, of course, in a difficult
position as a neighbouring country. They are conscious of their
own relationships with Yugoslavia, they are conscious of their
own demography with a very sizeable Albanian minority, up to 30
per cent, the numbers are not easy to be precise but certainly
up to 30 per cent. They are also of two minds, I think, I do not
mean that pejoratively, I mean it I hope very sympathetically.
Their long term goal is to be fully assimilated into Europe, both
into the European Union and indeed to NATO. That is their very
publicly stated strategic goal. Conversely, of course, they found
themselves by necessity host to a growing NATO force in what is
quite a small country with a limited infrastructure and taking
a political risk in my view of a very considerable nature in acting
as host to this NATO force. They squared the circle, if that is
a phrase I might use, by putting a block on the use of Macedonian
territory for offensive operations by NATO. We will never know
whether that would have changed if necessity had demanded it to
or not. I worked pretty hard and John Reith worked pretty hard
on the Albanian Government because without these two countries,
without Albanian and FYROM I think it would have been impossible
for NATO to have fully prosecuted the campaign. They were essential
to us and therefore it was very important that every effort was
made to keep those governments as certain and as on side as possible,
despite their very understandable nervousness. Now the politics
of course of Albania are rather different than they are from Macedonia.
I might mention also that, of course, Greece went through a difficult
period politically. Public opinion was almost unanimous against
NATO taking military action, of course that left the Greek Government,
as the NATO member, in a difficult position, particularly as Thessaloniki
was so important to us. I have said it before and I would perhaps
like to take this opportunity of thanking the Greek Government
for everything they did. They did remarkably well in very difficult
circumstances. Again it took some of my time to explain and to
thank the Greek Government during that very difficult period.
649. Perhaps you could add your thanks to the
German Foreign Minister. He is my latest hero, not somebody who
I would have put high on my list of heroes hitherto I might say,
but I think a lot of governments made very significant contributions
and in some cases rather unexpectedly I might add.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. I might say, also,
what helped enormously in Macedonia was after a slightly shaky
start in NATO/FYROM relationsI say the Alliance as a whole,
perhaps rather than we on the ground, although I got a bit of
the fall-outthe appointment by NATO, not of an Ambassador,
because I gather there are legal reasons why he cannot be one,
but of the Senior Civil Representative of NATO as he was known
to the FYROM Government, a retired German Ambassador to Belgrade,
Herr Hans Eiff, was a very good move indeed. Excellent.
650. Sir Mike, the opening part of my question
overlaps a bit with the answer you have just given to my colleague
Peter Viggers but let me put it anyway. If I understood your answer
to him correctly, if I was to ask you what were your orders in
February and March 1999, the answer would be basically you did
not have a lot of orders, you were sent to co-ordinate what was
already there. That is broadly a summary of it.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. It was quite clear
in February, early March, that you would not have these national
contingents without any formal command structure, all jockeying
for position, all trying to nick the best factory, all trying
to get on the training area first, to get the best deal from the
government. It was a bit overwhelming for the Macedonian Government
besides everything else it was having to deal with. So there was
a self-evident need for some form of co-ordination and a focal
point. Our first task was no more than just that: co-ordination
within, some logistics, allocation of real estate and liaison
with the Macedonian Government. Of course that changed dramatically
once military action began and we can come to that later.
651. Absolutely. It is fairly unprecedented
though for a General of any nation but particularly for a British
General, albeit wearing a NATO hat, to find himself deployed into
what might be about to become a theatre of war without a proper
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I think that is pushing
it, if I may say so, "without a proper order". I was
quite clear what was required. It was perfectly obvious why this
was required, a broadening of what we were there to do, which
was utterly foreseeable, but nonetheless I think given all sorts
of political sensitivities we had to wait for the events that
would trigger that broadening.
652. Right. At the RUSI in November you said
"In Macedonia we spent an awful lot of time planning. At
one stage my political adviser had a roots and branches diagram
which I think had seven outcomes we were trying to plan for each
of these different outcomes". Very unfair question, off the
top of your head, what were those seven or some of the seven outcomes?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) They were purely theoretical.
Please do not misunderstand me. Without in any way saying "This
is what will happen" or "is likely to happen" just
a theoretical "What are the possible outcomes of this"
which ranged from, of course, on the one hand "It is all
too difficult, we are going home", as simple as that, to
"war with Yugoslavia". As I say please do not read any
weight into what I am saying other than that when you look at
a situation like that there are a range of conceivable academic,
if you like, outcomes.
653. Each of which you had to put some planning
and thought into.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. Between those two
extremes there were a number of avenues and roads.
654. Did you have the contingency planning resources
to undertake this very wide range of options?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes.
655. What would you say thenstill staying
with this interim period between your deployment and the actual
start of hostilitieswhat were your immediate problems then?
What were at the top of your list of problems then besides planning
for these different options?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) There were a number of
things which we had to do. Firstly, we had to build this growing
force together, that is not any particular series of actions,
although there were things, exercises, study periods, all getting
to know each other because it is a multi-national force, very
important. I have spoken of, if you like, the political/military
interface. We will take that as covered, I hope.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Training the force, very
important. We were fortunate with a good training area in FYROM
and, as I say, getting ready for whatever may come. Now, it was
not very long, of course, after we all got there that events changed
dramatically with the commencement of military action. At that
stage then, of course, with the particular geography of FYROM
being what it was, the centre of gravity was all up in the norththe
capital, the international air field, etc., the main population
beltit is all up in the north very close to the Yugoslav
borderwhich was where we were mainly, again for fairly
obvious reasons. We were therefore in artillery range from across
the border, we were certainly in aircraft range so long as they
had an aircraft flying, we were certainly easily subject, had
they wished to do so, to cross-border special forces actions or
indeed some form of home grown terrorism within FYROM. It was
not inconceivable also, we believed, for the Yugoslavs to have
tried some form of propaganda style ground incursion. If you remember
the Gulf War, the Iraqi attack on to Al Khafji had no military
significance but it did attract television cameras because they
did go into Saudi Arabia. Then we had to get ourselves on to a
proper military posture for conceivably conventional fighting,
which we did, basically with a small force at that stage.
657. That brings me straight on to two questions
I will put together, if I may, for brevity's sake. Did you feel
that faced with all these various branching options that the forces
under your command had adequate capabilities to meet the situation
and, secondly, with that, critically did you believe there was
sufficient flexibility to surge reinforcements and bring in additional
capabilities as necessary as the situation developed?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I have said already that
the force was pretty small, and I am talking in the region I think
of 7 or 8,000 at this stage. That was by no means, of course,
the KFOR that we had designed, you will recall that I said about
25,000. The formal force generation had not taken place. There
was no activation order, no formal force generation. In other
words, we were a bit of awhat is the word I wantvirtual
force, not in the sense we did not exist but identity was a bit
of a problem.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Some nations even had difficulty
with the label KFOR because we had not been embodied. It was a
slightly strange existence at that time. Also, there was a derivation
of that slightly odd legal identity or lack of it. It gave some
difficulty there with command and control states. This is going
to get into some technical area if you want me to pursue it.
659. Rather than that, can I just ask you if
you can pursue the other side of the second half of the question.
I understand entirely the point about the formal legal structure
lacking because of the lack of the order, as you pointed out earlier,
but, from a wider point of view, were you satisfied that the systems
were in place within NATO given the order to reinforce quickly
and bring in all the various reinforcements necessarily from a
lot of different countries?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. The machinery is there
and we saw the machinery really kick in when it was clear that
KFOR was properly on its way as KFOR into Kosovo. We had got to
about 15,000 on entry but
1 Note by Witness: I have checked the date:
it was in fact 15 January. Back