Examination of Witnesses (Questions 700
WEDNESDAY 10 MAY 2000
700. In terms of planning, did you pass back
the word that despite your road constructions and improving the
harbour, it had its limits. It was difficult enough to get from
Tirana to Kukes by helicopter, let alone by land. It would have
been very difficult to have got past the Greek dock workers in
Thessalouiki and, as you said, it would be damn difficult to get
to Kosovo via Hungary, for political reasons, and the existence
of Serbia. Had there been a real fight, can you tell us what route
you would have taken to get sufficiently heavy artillery and tanks
to have made a significant difference and to achieve your objectives?
I am not a geographer. I am just wondering where it was going
to come from.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) If you look, Chairman,
at the ground, I have already mentioned you have Kosovo, which
is just over half the size of Wales, something of that order.
It is roughly circular, as you well know. It has couple of north/south
wooded ridges in the centre of the plateau, but it is basically
a plateau. Then we have these mountain, 10,000 feet or more, particularly
high on the west side, bordering Albania, and particularly high
on the south side bordering FYROM. There is one, to use our terminology,
Class 70 Route in from FYROM capable of taking the main battle
tanks. Its first15 kilometres is a ravine the famous Kacanik defile,
which has three bridges and two tunnels, all of which were prepared
for demolition. It has an alternative Class 30 route somewhat
to the west of that, that is it for FYROM, other than the odd
track. From Albania you basically had the road from Kukes to Prizren,
that road is not bad, but it is getting to Kukes, as you rightly
said, which is the problem. Then you have the route way up in
the north which would be a nightmare. Actually you are quite constrained.
This means that we would had to have done it in a rather different
way and there would have been an emphasis on people using the
air to get there and using their feet to get there.
701. A difficult planning task.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Mountains are only an obstacle
to vehicles, they are not an obstacle to good soldiers.
702. Despite the goodwill of the Greek Government
would it have been possible to use that route?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I cannot answer that question,
I do not know. What I do know is that the Greek Government, as
I think I have already made clear, were resolute in discharging
their responsibilities as a member of the alliance.
Chairman: Thank you.
703. If I can move on and ask you both some
questions on the military's relationship with the aid agencies
out in theatre? How good was the actual level of co-operation
between the military and the aid agencies?
(Major General Reith) I think excellent. When we arrived
in Albania there was a natural hesitancy on the part of many of
the NGOs of working with the military. We have seen that before
in other places, such as Bosnia. I asked the NGOs to gather so
I could speak to them and we had 238, I think, registered NGOs
within Albania and another 40-odd which were not registered, and
almost all of them came to a meeting in the centre of Tirana.
I tried to overcome the problem by standing up in front of them
and telling them what we were and what we were about. I explained
to themI was wearing my camouflage uniformthat you
see here what appears to be soldier but really this is camouflage.
I gripped my top and shook it and said, "Really I am one
of you, I am a very big NGO with 8,300 people and we have lots
of things we can bring to the party and we want to work with you."
It broke the ice and thereafter we started working with them very
closely. We developed an NGO information centre in the pyramid
building in the centre of Tiranait is called the pyramid
building because it is shaped like a pyramidand we provided
a 24 hour help desk there. We were able to inform them of the
security situation. We were able to help them get in touch with
other people that they needed to work with and we were able to
co-ordinate their activity, if they wanted to be co-ordinated.
We found it very quickly became used in a major way. On average
we had about 80 or 90 customers a day.
704. What lessons have you drawn for future
(Major General Reith) The lesson I draw is that the
military and the aid agencies can work together in good and very
close harmony. I was impressed by many of the NGOs, they clearly
work very hard in what they do. I was particularly impressed with
people like Oxfam that have specialised in Albania in water and
sewage. I was impressed by the way they were willing to co-operate
with us and with others for the overall effort. In the average
refugee camp we built we probably had four or five sponsor NGOs
and one of them took over the running of it in the end, and they
found the money for it. That worked very well. In the later stages,
when we were assisting in the return of refugees into Kosovo,
we set up a large transit centre at a place called Mjede where
the rail head is in northern Albania. We had27 NGOs working together
on the one site to assist the refugees in their return.
705. Were they overwhelmed?
(Major General Reith) They were overwhelmed before
we arrived but not because they did not have the resources in
the country and not because all of the disciplines were not there
it was just that it was not co-ordinated. When I went in there
on my recce I originally thought my primary job was going to be
to build refugee camps, that was part of it, the most important
priority. I realised once I got there we had to synergise all
of these resources. That is where I spent my first month, or so,
setting up the mechanisms and making the relationships and forging
them to achieve them.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) The dimension I could add
to Major General Reith's answer is that approach is the only one
that is going to work. It helps to give the NGOs a good party,
that breaks down some of their natural reserve. Whether we like
it or not some of the people who work for NGOs look at soldiers
as the cause of the problems. There are soldiers and soldiers.
There is a certain amount of reserve sometimes. I mean this in
a descriptive way, nothing more, NGOs are quite jealous of their
independence and their autonomy. They are not beholden to governments
and they are not beholden to armies. We all have to operate together
in such a circumstance like this. Any peace support operation
solution is going to have a number of strands to it, military,
humanitarian, political, economic, etc, they all have to work
together to deliver the whole. I think the lesson that comes out
is that we militaries must understand that the NGOs are not under
command, they are not soldiers and they need a different sort
of handling. They too, in turn, must realise that soldiers are
not always brutal.
706. Can we talk about the KLA? With the refugees
there were lots of people who were clearly identifying themselves
as the KLA by that time, what was your knowledge of the KLA and
how much information were you getting on it?
(Major General Reith) I should start
by saying that from the outset SACEUR said that I was not to have
any direct contact with the KLA, politically it was very sensitive.
What I did have was a very close relationship with the Albanian
Intelligence Service, who had a very close relationship with the
KLA. We obtained very large amounts of intelligence on the KLA
and their activities within Kosovo and their deployments and what
they were doing. My concern with the KLA was that they were operating
in the camps up at Kukes and I could see a sort of Palestinian
refugee crisis beginning to develop. The KLA were recruiting in
the camps and, I will say, firmly encouraging young men to join
the KLA. The camps were in Serbian artillery range. One of my
principle tasks from early on was to begin relocating the refugees
out of Kukes for that reason but also because in the winter they
would not survive there and in the hot summer there was insufficient
water to sustain them as well. Logistically for me it was a nightmare
because it was a 48 hour loop for my transport vehicle to get
the aid to them. We were working for a whole host of reasons to
try and get them out of Kukes and to create a buffer so if we
had further huge ejections we could absorb them before we got
them down further into the country.
707. You described Albania as a third world
country and evidence given to us at earlier sessions pointed to
the very close family and clan links between northern Albanians
and Kosovans. To what extent do you think the KLA is dependent
upon Albania and in fact how much is the KLA an Albanian organisation
as opposed to a Kosovan organisation?
(Major General Reith) The Albanian Government did
not support the KLA. They got no direct support from them at all.
There are close family links across the border but only in that
northern region from Kukes round through Tropolje to Bajran Curri
and a lot of the refugees that came out initially from Kosovo
actually stayed with family in that northern region and I had
difficulty thereafter trying to get them away from there. I had
no evidence at all of the Albanian Government directly supporting
708. In that case where did the KLA get its
support from, it uniforms and weapons?
(Major General Reith) They
were not obstructing the KLA and on the ferry from Italy every
day you would see 40 or 50 recruits for the KLA coming in from
the Albanian community abroadand there is a very large
Albanian community in Europe and in the United Statesand
we had evidence of them getting the ferry in Italy in their civilian
clothes and then changing into uniform they had bought themselves
when they arrived at the other end. So they literally walked off
the ferry dressed as KLA. They were then issued their patches
by a reception team and moved up towards the border where they
went into various training camps.
709. You said that you were not supposed to
have any contact with the KLA but clearly some form of negotiation
had to happen if you were going to avoid difficulties. How easy
was it to identify the KLA leadership and negotiate either directly
or indirectly with the people who actually made any decisions?
(Major General Reith) In the stage before the actual
negotiations with the KLA to disarm we had no negotiations with
them. The Albanian Second Division headquarters was in Kukes and
the KLA had put a liaison team in there so they could deconflict
with the Albanian Army and I took advantage of that by putting
my own liaison team in there which meant we were communicating
through the Albanian Second Division to ensure there was no problem
between us and them as well.
710. How much was the KLA an organisation or
was it really a collection of disorganised, disparate, unreliable,
conflicting groups all using the same name?
(Major General Reith) The intelligence we had back
in 1998 indicated that there was a series of factions. On the
ground I found it different and once they were openly fighting
the Serbs they had come together under Brigadier General Ceku
and Thaci's political control and all the factions were working
(General Sir Mike Jackson) It is worth just saying
that that cohesion did not long survive the end of their fighting.
711. It has been suggested by some people that
NATO could have made greater use of the KLA.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) It is a political question
712. What is your view of that?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) It is a political question
713. Was there a danger, on the other hand,
that the KLA was using NATO and that you were being exploited
and that you should have been a little bit more distanced from
Mr Hood: That is not a political question!
(General Sir Mike Jackson) It is inevitable that when
NATO took military action against Yugoslavia, including against
the Serbian forces in Kosovo itself, that this would be of benefit
to the KLA. It could not be anything else, could it?
(Major General Reith) It was mentioned earlier that
perhaps the actual destruction of tanks and so forth was not as
great as had been thought but the fact was it positively curbed
the Serb actions within Kosovo which obviously then assisted the
KLA in theirs.
714. When it came to the period when you did
negotiate with the KLA, how successful do you feel you were in
negotiating the terms of demilitarisation with the KLA and in
fact do we not have the KLA today under another name?
(Major General Reith) All I would say is that I went
in and I had to work the art of the possible. When I went in my
original remit was to try and negotiate an undertaking by the
KLA to disarm and that even if I did not achieve it at least they
would know what the international community expected of them.
I did achieve it, not with the ideal solution and I had obviously
been dealing with Brussels and SHAPE and also dealing with General
Jackson in Kosovo to make sure he was content that what we were
offering in the terms of it, remember it was their undertaking,
was workable. At the end of it they did agree to disarm within
90 days and I felt a bit like a used car salesman when I finished
715. Have they kept to the agreement?
(Major General Reith) I will leave that to General
(General Sir Mike Jackson) What was that?
716. Have they kept to the agreement they made?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) The programme of demilitarisation
was 90 days, as John has said, at the end of which they were to
turn in their weapons and ammunition and they were to cease to
exist as the KLA and obviously cease to wear KLA uniforms. Whether
we like it or we do not, the KLA see themselves as a victorious
army. Some of them, the majority certainly see themselves as the
embryo army of a future independent Kosovo. This may be unpalatable
but it is a fact. As the period of demilitarisation moved throughand
within the Undertaking was an aspirational paragraph along the
lines of an army of Kosovoit became clear to us that we
actually faced a very difficult choice indeed. After the 90 days
was over was the KLA to vanish off the face of earth at least
in terms of any formal arrangements but actually elements of it
almost certainly would go underground, or would it be more prudent
to offer those who saw themselves as wishing to be part of this
future "army"I put that in inverted commassome
form of visible, overt (as opposed to covert) uniformed hierarchical
organisation which would keep them above the water rather than
under it. The balance of judgment was that the second course was
preferable to the first and it is this that led to that again
difficult period of negotiation at the end of 90 days which led
to the establishment of the Kosovo Protection Corps, a civil defence
organisation modelled along the lines of the French Securite«
Civile. As to the efficacy of the demilitarisation, some 10,000
weapons were handed in, some five million rounds of ammunition,
of itself a significant figure. The inevitable counter question
of course is how many were not handed in? That is certainly unknown
to me because I would have to know how many there were in the
first place to do the necessary arithmetic. So too would the KLA
and they probably do not how many there were in the first place
either because "is this Kalashnikov in the formal, collective
possession of the KLA" or "does it belong to an Albanian
farmer who helped the KLA for a month or two and went back to
his farm and put his AKA 47 in the haystack", which is what
just about everybody in that part of the world does. We live in
a very strange environment down there where privately held weapons
are the norm. I cannot give you a better answer.
Mr Gapes: I think you have said enough.
We can draw the appropriate conclusions.
717. We are running short of time so I am going
to get into the question we have been wanting to ask all morning.
We have heard a lot in the media that relations between you and
SACEUR were difficult at times particularly related to the Russians
and Pristina. For the record can you tell us how that relationship
worked in theory and practice.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I am not quite sure what
you are getting at but I think I know what you want me to talk
about! General Clerk was my boss. I have always said that he was
my superior officer and all soldiers are pretty clear about what
that means. Equally so, it is inevitable that in any chain of
command there will be differences of view and opinion from time
to time and I think that is all I am going to say about it. Sorry.
718. You rotter!
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I know.
719. Watch this space. When we met John Warner
in the Senate Armed Services Committee he said he was going to
summon you to appear before him. I retaliated by saying I was
going to call Wesley Clark. Thankfully we never called Wesley
Clark and you never appeared before the Senate Armed Services
Committee so a good story was left largely untold.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I think there is something
that I could usefully say. I do not want to be taken down personal
roads because I do not think it is appropriate, but the question
of the red card was much spoken about. I think people ought to
understand what this actually means. It is a bit of a shorthand.
The longhand is that nations who contribute forces to a multi-national
force do so as a matter of sovereign judgment and choice and decision.
Nations therefore retain full command of those forces and only
delegate a certain level of authority, and that level can vary,
to the multi-national alliance commander, etcetera. Therefore,
if a nation does not wish to do something it will not because
that is what full command means, you retain the right to do it
or not to do it, to agree or to disagree. Hopefully it is used
very rarely but it is always there. That is what the red card
means. It is nations exercising the sovereign right of the ownership
of the final decision about the use of their troops. Nations,
not alliances, do that.
2 Note by Witness: the Albanian Government. Back