Examination of Witnesses (Questions 720
WEDNESDAY 10 MAY 2000
720. That implies a political element to it.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Of course, absolutely.
721. General, you may not wish to comment further
on whether your judgment or Wesley Clark's judgment was right
in terms of the Russians and Pristina Airport, but from my own
vantage point I believe history has proven your judgment to be
absolutely correct and we would certainly commend you for the
courageous decision you took. I do not want you to comment any
further upon it.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Nothing more personal but
I think again a word from me ought to be said about the part that
Russia played in bringing the conflict through its conflict termination
phase. The role of Russia's Special Balkan Envoy Mr Viktor Chernomyrdin,
alongside President Ahtisaari of Finland was, in my view, a very
pivotal aspect of that conflict termination procedure along with
the military pressure being applied. I have said publicly before
and I will say it again that the Russian contingent in KFOR was
in my time certainly, and I have no doubt still, doing a good
job in an impartial way.
722. Let's talk about other relationships then
ones, not personal, with the UK MOD and PJHQ. I want to know how
that fitted with what you were doing.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) There is little direct
contact and nor indeed should there be for both John and I were
working in a NATO chain of command as multi-national commanders,
and therefore going quite carefully in terms of avoiding any sign
of national partiality because that is not good for your credibility
with other nations within the force, you have got to be absolute
the neutral in that sense. So the national/alliance interface
is not either of us but it is in through the national MoDs into
SHAPE. It is up at that level where you get the inputs from nations
into the alliance. All of that said of course, with a sizeable
British element in KFOR, there were some purely British points
but not on policy grounds, they would more often be on practical
administrative grounds when we would pick up the phone and speak
directly over this or that. Perhaps you would be good enough to
take my word that these were not policy matters because that would
have been quite wrong.
723. You have given a good impression that it
is not wise to keep scuttling back to your own MoD and those relationships
have to be at a certain level.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) If it became clear that
I was in the habit of discussing everything on a daily basis with
General Sir Charles Guthrie for example or whatever, that would
not go down too well with other nations who might be suspicious
of what I was getting up to and of a national agenda emerging,
and you cannot afford to have that impression.
724. How were you about discussions with Air
Marshall John Day and the like? Would you do that informally or
formally or would you be careful about that?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes, from time to time
there would be discussions but I was very happy to discuss my
perspective with the senior military of any of the contributing
nations. If I could help inform their view and their own decision-making,
fine. I came back to London two or three times I think during
the period for informal discussions, "How did I think? Where
do we think we are going?" that sort of thing. As I say,
this needs to be done with care to maintain your credibility as
an unbiased, multi-national command.
725. You felt that you struck the right balance?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I hope so.
Chairman: We have another 15 minutes
if that is alright. Julian Lewis?
726. Your recent remarks about the role of the
Russians gives me a steer to the answer to this question, but
I would like to ask it just the same. Do you subscribe to Sir
John Keegan's view that this was a war won by strategic air power
alone or to the view that we have heard from the Chief of Defence
Staff and from people at NATO that the reinstated threat of ground
forces, the decision of Russia not to back Milosevic and the success
of NATO in maintaining alliance cohesion were important factors
in forcing him to cave in?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I do not believe it is
sensible to conclude that Milosevic was brought to the point of
concession purely by the military action that was used against
him. One can identify a number of pressures and levers which were
operating. Clearly there was that option of military action.
727. Do you mean air action when you say military
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Of course, yes, and I suspect
in particular what was damaging there was the strategic level
of bombing that was taking place within Serbia proper, not only
the physical destruction but I suspect it was beginning to hurt
that extraordinary politico-commercial Mafia that seems to operate
around Belgrade and some of them were not making as much money
as they used to. Secondly, I have already reflected on the diplomatic
pressure that was brought to bear and it must have been an unpleasant
experience for Milosevic to realise he could not look to the Russians
for any form of support or help. Thirdly, he might have expected
or at least I am sure he hoped that NATO would collapse under
the political strains of prosecuting this conflict. Indeed it
had not and there were no signs of it doing so. We have already
spoken about the emerging signs that there would be a ground offensive
if that became necessary and I have no doubt that Milosevic knew
that he could not win that one and of course we must not forget
that in late May he was indicted, another form of pressure that
was put upon him. There may be others, I know not. We will never
know precisely why he conceded unless he writes a book, perhaps
from the peace and quiet of a cell in The Hague!
728. General, I am sure we all say "Hear,
hear" to that. Were your views sought on the likely efficacy
of the air campaign and all its possible implications for any
subsequent ground operations you might have had to take?
(Mr Sharples) Not as such, no. As the ARRC Commander,
if we put it into doctrinal terms eventually this was not necessarily
a matter for us, but the strategy emerged of course as a result
of the political will. It was what was the political will at the
time in terms of how far we can go at any one time.
729. In the light of that answer, can you tell
us what your links were with the NATO Air Commander and whether
you had regular exchanges of information with him? Can I join
with that, because of the time pressure, a supplementary that
I would otherwise have delayed until I had heard your answer?
We formed an impression that you played little or no part in the
selection and approval of targets during the air campaign. Are
we correct or wrong about that?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) You are quite right. On
the second part, our input into the targeting process was absolutely
minimal. In a way that was almost inevitable because it was not
a ground/air simultaneous action. It was unusual in this sense.
What we did ask was would it be possible to leave alone certain
installations and barracks but I fear the temptation to reduce
their barracks to a load of rubble was too much, so we did not
have barracks to go to when we got there and we had to build some
portacabins. As to your first question I had a strong liaison
team in Vicenza at the combined air operations centre, and in
ARRC we have our own small but very able air operations control
centre so the linkages were there without doubt.
730. But there was not too much information
travelling along them?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) There was a great deal
in terms of implementation. There was often aircraft that got
in trouble. When we finished up in FYROM, bits fell off aircrafts
and all sorts of things went on. In the policy making, which is
really what you are getting at, nothing.
731. Is it true to say you were unimpressed
with the way that tactical air operations were conducted against
the fielded forces in Kosovo, and is it possible to say what impact
the air campaign and its choice of targets had on your subsequent
entry into Kosovo? You have already made a point about the barracks,
(General Sir Mike Jackson) I have already intimated,
at least, the pressures upon Milosevic and the effect of the strategic
bombing against fixed targets in Serbia, I suspect, again we do
not know, was much weightier than the damage being done to his
army in Kosovo. I think it is matter of record that the actual
damage done is rather less than was once estimated to have been
done. We can play with the numbers forever, I am not privy to
the information on which the numbers have been assembled. Certainly
when we entered Kosovo we did not have to clear away hundreds
of burned out tank hulks.
732. Are there any general lessons that you
think would be useful for us to share? Are there any general lessons
you can share with us about the negotiations of the MTA?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) It was an extraordinary
experience because, of course, the mechanism by which we got there
was the visit of Mr Chernomyrdin and President Atiisaari to Belgrade
on 2 June and on the subsequent day 3 June when they said, "We
will now accept the G8 principles." It was then a question
of translating these broad principles, some of them of a political
nature, into an actual set of actions which would get us from
A to B. All of this was done at a point of contact on the ground
rather than any Government to Government level. In terms of any
lessons which emerge, no, I do not think that I can come to any
great weighty comment there. It worked, there was a lot of political
input, for the reasons I have just given, which meant constant
referral to Belgrade, which took a long time. They tried to get
a bit more out of it than the principles would allow, which explains
the hiatus at the halfway point. At the end of the day the Kumonovo
Agreement is a reasonable expression in practical terms of those
principles agreed by the G8.
733. Following which, you then advanced your
forces in a dangerous military situation, did you not? Were you
confident? How did you plan, as they went through?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) The thrust of the Kuminova
Agreement, the conflict was terminated by agreement and that agreement
involved a succession of actions, perhaps the most important of
which, although all of it was important, was, of course, the withdrawal
of the Serb forces from Kosovo itself, that was central to the
agreement. It is not, of course, impossible that the Serb side
might have signed the agreement in bad faith and had no intention
of carrying it out whatsoever and would have resisted KFOR's entrance.
That would seem a pretty extraordinary thing to have done. I cannot
think of an advantage of it, having gone through the agreement
process, then tear it up, why bother to go through it? We had
reasonable confidence that strategically the Serbs would do that
which they had agreed to do. What we felt we could not be certain
of was that all members of the Serb security forces would be of
a view that it was time to leave Kosovo. We were fully prepared
for local resistance. In the event there was hardly any.
734. You said elsewhere you felt a certain amount
of respect and the competence for the manner in which they carried
out their withdrawal?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) The figures speak for themselves.
40,000 people, 400 tanks in 11 days, any army would regard that
as a challenge.
735. You were, presumably, planning? You, presumably,
planned for the alternative. You had air power, which you could
have called upon. Were you confidant that could have been arranged?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes, what was all arranged.
736. Were you confident that KFOR, our military
in Kosovo, was capable of sustained operations should there be
a chemical or a warfare environment?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) We had all the equipment.
The capability of the Serb forces would only have been chemical,
that is all they are alleged to have had, it is very dubious.
We looked into this and there is very little evidence of any coherent
capability on the Serb side at all. We were prepared for it. Even
if they deployed whatever they had it would not have been a significant
737. Your planning took account of surprises,
should they come.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) Yes.
738. From your discussions with the Serb military
how were they reacting to the political decision that had been
made in Belgrade. Did you get a sense that they were relieved
or did you get a sense that they, in fact, were offended by the
thought of leaving the historic heartland of the Serbian nation.
(General Sir Mike Jackson) The atmosphere at Kumonovo
was workman-like, unemotional, no raised voices, I think that
describes it well enough. There was no sort of sentimentality,
one way or another. I think what we discovered, as we saw more
of the Serb Army withdraw and we advanced, there was a mixture
of feelings. Some thought, "What on earth are we doing in
this place, we are hated by the people who live here, the sooner
we get home the better. Thank goodness I am still alive."
Others would take the traditional Serb view, Kosovo the heartland,
the Fields of Blackbirds and all of the Serb mythological aspect
to it. It is hard for me to give you a general answer to the question.
739. Were there concerns expressed at any time
as to what would happen to the remaining Serb population?
(General Sir Mike Jackson) On their side it was one
of their driving motives throughout the Kumonovo negotiations,
that whatever arrangements resulted from the agreement absolutely
minimised any risk to the Kosovar Serb population. They were extremely
concerned, and as we have seen, with good reason, extremely concerned
for retributive action by the Albanians against what would then
be a minority Serb population.