Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 660 - 679)



  660. Still very small.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) We were aiming, at that stage, for what became KFOR Plus, not 25,000 but getting on for 50,000. Then actually the other nations who had not deployed and indeed those nations who had and were going to put more in did so. I think we got up to 50,000 by late July, a month after entry, something of that order. It takes time, it does take time unless you are prepared to redeploy before the event.

  661. That still would have been very small had you faced something at the other end of the spectrum in terms of your seven options.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Indeed. We had the peace implementation grown, which had to result from some form of agreement which therefore required Milosevic to concede to whatever minimum conditions we were laying down in that agreement, of course that was what did happen at Kuminova—had that not happened, had the decision been to prosecute this conflict to the point of coercing Milosevic to concede those principles by means of offensive ground operations into Kosovo then we would have had to build a very much larger force—very much larger by a factor of 10/12, 15 plus. KFOR was something which not all observers and some media had difficulty in understanding. They saw some tanks and thought this was something it was not.

  662. Thank you.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) It would have taken time and a lot of effort to have built it to a war fighting machine.

  Mr Brazier: Absolutely.

Dr Lewis

  663. General Jackson, at the outset it was publicly stated that ground troops would not be used to force their way in. Are you aware of, and if so will you tell us, at what stage was it covertly conveyed to Milosevic that the threat of a ground attack had been reinstated?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I do not know if it was covertly transmitted to Milosevic or not. Again, if it was properly covert then I probably would not know anyway.

Laura Moffatt

  664. Exactly.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) There were—there were, were there not—public signs that the atmosphere was changing from the initial publicly stated position. I recall, I think it was the President of the United States in mid May said "no options are ruled out", a phrase, if that is not verbatim, very similar to that. Milosevic can work out with the difference between those two statements and come to the obvious induction. Covert, I have no idea but we all saw a change in public statements and the thrust of public statements as time went on.

Dr Lewis

  665. Yet, I am sure you were aware of many developments which were going on in the campaign which were not available to the public, and all I am asking is whether you were informed at any time before there was any perceptible public shift that the ground force option was being reinstated? My justification for asking this is that the Chief of the Defence Staff counted the threat of ground force attack as one of the four main factors that he regarded as compelling Milosevic's compliance. Surely it is quite legitimate to ask at what point you think that really began to bite?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Indeed. I am sorry if you think I am trying to evade the issue, I am not at all. I would say this, would I not, I completely agree with the Chief of Defence Staff. One's own analysis tells you that one of the several pressures operating on Milosevic in late May/early June when he did decide to concede was, I am quite certain, the threat of a ground invasion, one which he would have lost, and he knows that. How was that message was conveyed? I am not actually privy to whatever diplomatic or other signals may have been sent to him by whatever route. Those who do these things do these things covertly. I would just say I think to the lay observer there was enough in the media to show that the game was moving on. There was serious thought starting to be given to what needed to be done next if the bombing did not achieve its mission.

  666. At the end of Mr Brazier's questions you started to touch on my next two questions but rather than trying to dissect them I shall put them as they stand. If you had had to make an opposed entry into Kosovo late last summer, do you believe that force levels and capabilities would have been appropriate and sufficient to counter the level of opposition that was then expected?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) We must be careful here again, if I can use the trite phrase, comparing apples and oranges. Indeed, up to the point we went in KFOR was configured, structured and sized as a peace implementation force. Had we had to force our way into Kosovo against opposition—and frankly it would have been very difficult to estimate the nature, both by size and morale of that opposition two months down the range or whatever it was going to be—had we had to do that we would have had to build, as I say, a much larger force, a much heavier hitting force to do that job. That would have taken some time and some effort.

  667. Right. Now let us assume that you decided to do that and build up that larger force, how formidable a Serbian force would you have expected to encounter and how did this relate to what you later found in reality on entry into Kosovo?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) What we found on entry into Kosovo was a sizeable part of the VJ, the Yugoslavian Serb Army, estimated at up to 400 main battle tanks, some 200 artillery pieces, perhaps 20,000 soldiers, and of course 20,000 thereabouts special police as well, a pretty sizeable force. That said, the Yugoslav Army has not fought a conventional war as it is constructed, it has only been occupied in what they call internal security. So although the numbers are quite large, the capability is not one I think that would have given a properly organised, trained and equipped western NATO force any great problem.

  668. Is it true that according to a suppressed US air force report which has now been leaked that only 14 tanks were destroyed, not the claimed 120; that only 18 armed personnel carriers were destroyed, not the claimed 220; and that only 20 artillery pieces were destroyed not the claimed 450. If it is true that the battle damage assessment was so overrated, what might have been the effect on force level requirements of that over-optimistic assessment? Are you still confident that, had you built up the forces to the level you had anticipated needing to do the enforced entry, that would have been sufficient to meet what you would have found, given the knowledge now of what had not been destroyed?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes, because I think my previous answer was couched against the numbers.

  669. Right.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Rather than the—shall we say—more optimistic ones which you quoted there.


  670. If we had been obliged to begin a ground war had approval been given had enough countries signed up, bearing in mind the meteorological circumstances, the climatic circumstances, despite all the roads that General Reith was building and the air fields he was building—or we thought you were building or they thought you were building—would you have had time to have got in a campaign before the climate sufficiently deteriorated?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Obviously we had worked out as carefully as we could what these time constraints were. By the mid summer in FYROM we had 200,000 plus in camps. You had—
  (Major General Reith)—nearly 500,000.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) So three quarters of a million people, shall we say, in round terms, living in refugee tents in the two countries. Fine, in a Balkan summer, extremely unpleasant and indeed life threatening no doubt for the elderly and the sick in a Balkan winter which can be very, very hard. I think the logistics of winterised accommodation for that number of people were horrific. On that basis the time planning would have been that we would have needed, given, if you like, the hard onset of winter by early November/mid November at the latest, given we needed a month or so to get the refugees back, given we would wish to give ourselves a month for military operations to achieve the conditions to get the refugees back, it did not take a great deal to work out that we were approaching a decision in perhaps mid to late June to actually start to deploy and put together a force. Now that does not mean to say you have to use it but you cannot use it unless you have got it into the right place. Bringing it together, transporting it and getting it into concentration areas, wherever they may have been, is a time consuming affair, particularly for the size of force we are talking about.

  671. Even if various countries had said they would have contributed the best resources available it would have been a pretty tight fit to have got in a one month campaign.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Chairman, you have a simple time and space problem, ships only go at so many knots and it takes so long to get from A to B. There is also then actually getting the force organised in its waiting area, hopefully getting in some training and putting it together. This takes time.

  Chairman: Thank God it took the course it did is all I can say.

  Mr Brazier: Absolutely.

Mr Hood

  672. General, we have heard earlier estimates that upwards of 150,000 troops would have been required to conduct a ground force opposed entry into Kosovo. Did you provide that figure? If you did not who made the estimate?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Again I go back to informal planning and formal planning. Of course there was informal planning going on. I have no doubt every Ministry of Defence in the Alliance was doing some informal planning to see what it might mean nationally for their own forces. Certainly there was informal planning going on in SHAPE, and certainly in my own headquarters. Now, it had not got to the point where any formal decision was even on the immediate horizon, although time was beginning to press. There were a number of variables which we did not know and would not have known until the relevant strategic political decisions had been made. Neither had any definitive judgment been made upon the size of the force, what avenues of approach it would use and what its objectives would be. There were a number of possible objectives. So I think we need to be careful here that we do not start judging size against something when you have not stated what the mission is. But, had the mission been to evict from Kosovo a battered but not necessarily defeated Pristina Corps, which was the main body of the VJ in Kosovo, and given the nature of the ground which was very difficult, given that Kosovo was basically ringed by mountains with very few routes in, 150,000, a full blown corps seemed to us to be the minimum we would need to be looking at.

  673. Given your state of preparation for an opposed ground force entry in March 1999, how long would it have taken to assemble, train and prepare the necessary forces before entry would have been possible?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes. It would require the right decision making, of course. I think the generally held view was that once a decision had been made some two months would have been required to deploy, assemble and ready the force for operations.

  674. The Chief of Defence Staff in evidence stated that the UK had been prepared, if asked, to commit a ground force of some 50,000 troops, regular and reserve. Did this surprise you?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) No. No, it did not. If I can expand on that. It was quite clear the strength which had been put behind the British Government's approach to this whole problem and therefore it did not surprise me that we were willing to go to that number.

  675. Which other nations did you expect to contribute and which specifically had said they would not contribute?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) I know of no definite national position from anybody other than my own nations because I do not think any other leader made such a pronouncement. I do not think I can speculate on it.

  676. Of the UK's 50,000, the Chief of Defence Staff stated that around 12-14,000 would have been reservists. Would that number surprise you?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) No. 50,000, if they were not to include reservists, would be half of the trained army. It does not surprise me at all that it would be sensible to look to the reserves to assist that. It is precisely one of the reasons we have reservists.

  677. That being so, General, from your knowledge of the UK's reserves, how well prepared do you think they would have been to have done the task?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Let me say this. In my opinion, I would have every confidence that they would have been there. I know the TA quite well, I have served with them myself once. Their enthusiasm and willingness to get involved is always a source of delight. But, you must remember that I am here as a NATO commander, speaking from events as I saw them, I do not really think that I can give you or should give you a judgment along those lines. That would be better put I think to somebody here who was in the national chain of command.

  Mr Hood: This Committee shares your support and enthusiasm for the TA, unfortunately others within the MoD do not.


  678. If Sierra Leone is going to go pear shaped, could you raise 50,000 to go anywhere now you have changed hats, General?
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Needs must, yes. If it is needs must.

  679. I think 50,000 was a little bit on the optimistic side, unless they included Group 4 and Securicor.
  (General Sir Mike Jackson) Again we get into this sometimes unhelpful shorthand of talking about numbers. What we really want to be talking about is what sort of capabilities we are looking to. If the hypothesis is 50,000, of which shall we say 10,000 are reservists/TA leaving 40,000 to be found by the regular army, yes it would be done if the crisis required it.

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