Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 880 - 902)



  880. Did that include opposed entry ground force plans?
  (Sir John Goulden) Yes. Everybody knew that that would include the whole lot. That was one focus of the updating. Thereafter, it was quite clear that a lot of work was going on at SHAPE as well as in capitals. After the Washington summit the message started to come out rather more clearly that no options were ruled out. That was a clear signal. Thereafter, of course, we went into the period in June when we knew that if we did not succeed quite soon, we would have to take a decision within days in order to meet the September timetable. That was at the back of our minds.

  881. That relates to my second question, although you used the word "days" which has virtually answered it. By the beginning of June 1999 how long did NATO believe that it would take to assemble the forces necessary for a ground attack, for a ground force entry?
  (Sir John Goulden) Before we talk about the mobilisation time, there was an important change that had happened by June. We had completely modified the plan for going in on the ground after success in the air. I think the original estimate was 28,000, but then we realised how big a humanitarian problem and infrastructure problem there would be and we virtually doubled those figures to something like 45,000. The mobilisation was going on faster as a result of that. We knew that we would have a much bigger force in Macedonia, even for a benign context. Everybody knew this carried an ambiguous signal to Belgrade that we had the basis for a bigger force if necessary.
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) In the wake of the Washington summit when all options, including forced entry, were being reviewed, increasingly we began to see Mike Jackson's forces in Macedonia as the initial footprint and the CORE of what may need to come next. In terms of deployment timelines, my recollection is that it would take somewhere between eight to 10 weeks to stand up and deploy the force. It was that kind of timetable. It was certainly not less than that.

  882. Eight to 10 weeks would be needed to deploy the 150,000 odd for a forced entry?
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) That is my recollection. I may need to give you some follow-up advice on that once I have checked.

  883. From the middle of June, eight to 10 weeks is taking us close to the onset of autumn.
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) It was certainly going to be tight.
  (Sir John Goulden) In broad terms we were thinking of September as the critical time, the latest moment at which we would have to move. At that point a decision was needed within days of the actual ending of the operation on the 11 June.

Mr Hancock

  884. I want to take you back to where you began with not just learning lessons, but also implementing them. I was intrigued by the question of the reactions to the refugees which came as a surprise. Surely, a lesson that we had learned in the Balkans was that pushing people around was a pretty effective weapon. It had been used in Croatia and in Bosnia. Why were we taken by surprise?
  (Sir John Goulden) We were surprised by one angle. We were not surprised that there was a major campaign starting in early March. Before the campaign started there was an ethnic cleansing campaign of great intensity in the middle of March. We were not surprised that they were razing villages to the ground using the totally disproportionate methods that the Serb forces use. We were not surprised that they were pushing people out into the hills. There were large numbers of displaced persons. By the time we started the campaign there were 250,000 displaced people. The bulk of our information pointed to substantial numbers of people being made homeless within Kosovo. However, we were not expecting, and past history did not lead us to expect, that there would be massive deportations in that organised and brutal way.

  885. Arising out of what was said by Admiral Haddacks is the point about having plans in a bundle from the middle of 1998 for various options. Why did those plans not include the plan for the bad weather campaign? Why were we taken by surprise by the weather at that time of the year? Surely, that had been built into any plan because historically the weather was always bad at that time of year.
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) The plan had taken account of weather factors. What was very hard to predict was the speed at which the various phases of the air campaign were going to be completed. As you know, we began dealing with the FRY air defence system which, up to a point, needed to be neutralised before we could, with a reasonable degree of safety, conduct operations over Kosovo. That took longer than we had hoped for, but it was always part of the plan that we would not have clear blue skies every day of the week. We knew that.

  886. Do you accept the proposition that as far as NATO was concerned, there was a huge question mark over NATO's capability with regard to intelligence at NATO headquarters, that there are serious questions to be asked and hopefully lessons to be learned and implemented?
  (Sir John Goulden) There certainly are lessons to be learned from the intelligence front. NATO, of course, does not have its own intelligence-gathering capability and I do not think anybody is seriously proposing that. During the campaign we were able to ensure that the key people knew an enormous amount. We were feeding the key decision-makers, including Javier Solana, with an enormous amount of information, which he needed to possess. I am sure that other governments were doing the same. In addition, the permanent representatives sitting around the Council knew a great deal that not everybody else knew because it was national intelligence that was too sensitive to be shared widely or perhaps too urgent to be shared widely. I believe we have a lesson to learn in how to convert raw intelligence and all the information from all sources into good collective judgment and assessment. I think NATO needs to improve its ability to process, synthesise and assess information. That would be the biggest single benefit that I think we could get out of this on the intelligence front. I do not see a need to set up a NATO intelligence capability; I do not see much scope to distribute our own national and American intelligence much more generously, partly because of time constraints and partly because of the source constraints.

  887. Was there some degree of controversy within NATO itself about the lack of sharing of that intelligence?
  (Sir John Goulden) No. There was more controversy about the lack of information about what the Contact Group was up to. The 14 allies who were not in the Contact Group felt pretty under-briefed at times about what was happening there. That is an area that we have to improve in future. It gave rise to understandable irritation and anxiety. I do not think that people expect to be given twice as much intelligence as they receive. The daily intelligence that was circulated at NATO, plus SACEUR's letters, gave us a very good insight. It was a case of them not receiving the icing on the cake.

  888. I want to return to a point raised by several Members in relation to battle damage assessment. It is very important because what you do on one day depends on what you have done the previous day. Last week we had the media here and they gave a convincing performance to say that they did not think that they were deliberately lied to, which surprised me, as I thought I had been. But if you had this crack intelligence of the world's greatest super power, with its super intelligence network, and you were getting these battle damage assessments and making decisions on them, who, within NATO, was responsible for accepting that information and then making judgments for the next raid?
  (Sir John Goulden) First of all, the Council does not receive battle damage assessments on a regular basis. Battle damage assessment is a complicated process that produces results afterwards, usually several days afterwards. We did not receive the tank figures until after the conflict was over. We were judging on the assumption that we were not going to destroy all the forces in Kosovo and that an entry would, therefore, encounter resistance. We thought it would probably encounter quite stiff resistance initially because they were a strong force that people respected. We were not assuming that all the tanks had been destroyed or that X tanks had been destroyed. In our calculations about a ground option we would have worked on the assumption that we needed to over-estimate rather than under-estimate their capability.

  889. In the end, the NATO Council, the members of NATO, were making decisions about whether or not to continue different types of raids. Your colleagues, who have been before you, have told us that there was a veto on some sorties being carried out. It went down the chain of command. It went up the chain of command. People just said, "No, you are not going to that target." That must have been based on the effects of the raid on that target but also the damage caused elsewhere in similar raids. No?
  (Sir John Goulden) This is going to an area I was not directly involved in. I do not think it was a major phenomenon. It was right that nations had a say in what they were doing. It was right that they should be able to delay a decision while they checked carefully whether it was the right target. But I do not think that nations, in those few cases where they did say, "We do not think this is an appropriate target for us," were saying that against the background of the number of tanks we had destroyed or whatever. Their concern was basically about legality and appropriateness.

  890. Just a final question about the future and the lessons learnt. Do you think that NATO should cease to be so reliant on US intelligence for the future or not?
  (Sir John Goulden) Quite a few allies do believe that. It is a slightly difficult question for the United Kingdom to answer because so much is shared and we have such good sources of our own. A lot of allies, both from this and from previous crises, have drawn the conclusions that it would be nice to have other sources under their own control but implementing that, of course, carries a very heavy financial price tag.
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) If I may just add, there is one lesson in terms of capabilities that we draw from this. That is that the Alliance and the European allies, in particular, are deficient in surveillance and reconnaissance capability. This is something we need to take some steps to rectify. The question marks over battle damage assessment were largely over the fielded forces in Kosovo, not over static hard targets. So it is the deployable surveillance reconnaissance assets we really need to do something about in capability terms.


  891. On the question of assessments, my question is rather broader. Admiral, it was you who said that some assessments, we could improve on that. Did you mean battle damage assessment or strategic assessment? How would you define different levels of assessment available within NATO and where are the improvements?
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) You are talking in terms of doctrine in that context? I spoke about a number of areas where we needed to tidy up our doctrinal base. Information operations was one. Civil military co-operation, which is pretty much entirely a new game for NATO, is another. The overall approach of peace support operations is a third.

  892. But not strategic assessment? You think there is adequate share?
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) With the exception of the intelligence input to it, which John has touched on, I absolutely agree with him. This is the key area that I think the Assistant Director of Intelligence in NATO has identified, this need for strategic assessment capability. With the exception of that, intelligence is in reasonably good shape. In terms of assessment methodology, NATO needed to embrace a political military estimate approach as the very first step in the crisis management.

  893. You mentioned media. We had a couple of sessions last week with a lot of BBC types who were not entirely opportunist in their assessments. What surprised me was that the conflict looked on the cards for months and months and months. We had been through the experience of Bosnia. You, Ambassador, would have known about the media handling in the Falklands. How come it took so long before NATO got its act together? No criticism of Shea. It is a bit like Georgie Best and Bobby Charlton in Manchester United in the 60s, where it was a one-man or two-man team and the rest were there to make up the numbers. How come it took so long to get your act together? What was the catalyst for improvements in the second half of the campaign?
  (Sir John Goulden) The main reason is that we misread from Bosnia. You recall we had two bombing campaigns in Bosnia in the summer of 1995. They aroused a lot of press interest, partly because hostages were taken. During that crisis the Secretary General and his very small information media team managed. We did not realise that a longer campaign of a more intense nature, with an absolutely voracious press interest, could not be handled on that basis. We should have realised but we did not. By early April it was obvious that, although Xavier Solana, Jamie Shea and their team were doing a fantastic and heroic job, it was not enough. We were not getting quick enough responses to incidents. We did not have good enough media liaison with SHAPE, so we were not getting a coherent response there. We did not have enough analysis of how the media was going country by country and what stories were going wrong and needed to be answered. We did not have enough projection into the region, particularly radio and TV. We also did not realise how much the dice was loaded against us in this particular conflict. Unlike Bosnia, we did not have anyone on the ground. We did not know what was happening. We could not deliver the stories and the photographs in the way Milosevic could. Even early April, we were then ten days into the campaign, we were realising that this was not going right. We made some adjustment and reinforcement then. But it was not until the middle of April, when Alastair Campbell came to NATO and had detailed conversations with Solana, that we produced basically a totally new plan. The Media Operations Centre that was set up was an immensely impressive second phase. We had extremely high calibre people. They stole a lot of our best people from delegations for a start. We resented that at the time, but it was a good effort because we needed talent there. We had 25 people or so from many countries doing this process of rapid response, media analysis, proactive article writing, projection into the theatre, and improving the liaison with SHAPE. Those were the five things that really were missing at the beginning. Next time round that Media Operations Centre will be up before the crisis gets critical. That is the vital lesson learnt on that front.

  894. Perhaps Jamie Shea should reciprocate and help Mr Campbell with the Government's rather obvious difficulties over the last four weeks. That would be a delightful irony. Perhaps you can pass it on.
  (Sir John Goulden) Chairman, you have gone right off my patch!

Mr Viggers

  895. From where were you deriving your advice on Milosevic's psychology? Was this national intelligence or from America or internally?
  (Sir John Goulden) One important source was that we had in NATO three or four people who knew him very, very well. General Clarke had spent hours in his company over the four or five years previous. Xavier Solana knew him very well. Klaus Naumann knew him pretty well. So they were able to give us their own interpretation of what was likely to be going on in his mind. We had, of course, quite a few Balkan experts who were giving me, and through me other NATO colleagues and Solana, an insight; and we were getting intelligence. So it was a picture from several different sources. Our main source was Clarke, Solana and Naumann.

  896. My specific question is that on 12 April 1999, when General Guthrie, Chief of Defence Staff, was asked about plans for a ground campaign, he specifically ruled it out. I, for one, remain baffled that we did rule out a ground campaign, when it might have had a significant impact on Milosevich's attitude to what he might expect. When challenged on this, General Guthrie said, "Presumably, one had to carry one's NATO allies with one." Can you comment on that.
  (Sir John Goulden) First of all, I do not think that Milosevich was as comforted by those statements as you are assuming now. He knew that Solana had commissioned planning on 11 June 1998 and that this planning had been developed. It was being updated later on in April 1999. He probably knew that several NATO allies, including some of the main allies, were doing their own national plan. I am sure he found ways of knowing that or it was brought to his attention. What people were saying in April—it was not just General Guthrie but plenty of other people—was, "It is not necessary at this stage. It probably is not politically feasible at this stage." And although they did not say so, it would not have been cost effective at this stage to be mobilising troops. It was not feasible to talk up that option in early April but by late April it was being talked about. When the Prime Minister said in the House after Washington that "Milosevic has no veto over what we will do" that was a very significant statement. What it meant was that we do not need his agreement to go into Kosovo. We kept on saying "no options are ruled out". When President Clinton repeated that in early June, that also had a very symbolic impact as far as Belgrade was concerned.

  897. I can understand the option not being talked up. What I do not understand is why it was talked down.
  (Sir John Goulden) As you know, people in a public position were not allowed by Parliament and the press to say, "That is not a subject I will talk about." They had to answer the question, "Is it feasible today or not?" They were cornered. In that situation it was honest to say, "It is not politically feasible," particularly since some other allies, in order to be comfortable with their public opinion at that stage, were saying "You can forget about the ground option at the moment." That was going too far. What our Ministers and leaders were saying was, "It is not feasible at this moment." "As of now", I think was one of the phrases that was used. "As of today".

Mr Gapes

  898. May I follow that up quickly. If it was not politically feasible in April, do you think it was, amongst your 19 allies, politically feasible in June?
  (Sir John Goulden) It changed in April in that everybody agreed that Solana should commission an important update of the planning. Everybody was aware in May/June that we were moving into "no options were ruled out" and that the Brits, in particular, were talking up the ground option quite a lot.

  899. I understand about the Brits. I understand our position. I am asking about the 19.
  (Sir John Goulden) But that is important background in describing how other people's perceptions were developing. I cannot say that we would have got 19 votes on 12 June. We would have had to work the Alliance very hard, but I think we would have got quite a few votes very soon after 12 June, and gradually we would have worked up enough consensus to get a decision. Decision making in this crisis was very dynamic. People took decisions at a certain time that they were not willing to take earlier. Solana said that the most difficult thing in being Secretary General was making sure that a decision does not come to the council prematurely but only when it is ready. He was a master at that. With his help and a lot of hard work in capitals, as well as in NATO, we would have been able, in the end, to get a decision to deploy ground troops if that became the only way of being sure of succeeding in 1999 and getting the refugees back in 1999.

  900. So that would have included the United States being in support of it?
  (Sir John Goulden) They had already said at presidential level that no option was ruled out.

  901. But you will be as aware as I am, that within Congress there was enormous resistance to the idea.
  (Sir John Goulden) We come down to personal judgments. My personal judgment is that they would have been prominently there.

  902. My final question to Admiral Haddacks. You to referred the fact that neutralising the air defences took longer than hoped for. How much longer than hoped for?
  (Vice-Admiral Haddacks) I do not think we had ever laid out a timetable for it. We had envisaged being able to neutralise those air defences within a matter of days rather than weeks. In the final event, of course, it turned out to be weeks. Some of it never finally did get neutralised, but we did get down to an acceptable level of risks to operate over Kosovo.

  Chairman: Thank you both very much. It was very helpful.

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