Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 960 - 975)



  960. General, your colleagues who were here an hour before you told us for a year before they had every possible plan under the sun put into place. I sat in the Pentagon on Monday and the Secretary of Defence told us that every possible air platform that was required was available. Was it the plan that was wrong? Was it the politicians who got it wrong and said you had to fight a softly, softly war or was it that we just were not ready and that was why it took so long to subdue Milosevic?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) Certainly it was not the latter because he was involved, Milosevic. That is like saying to a boxer "Why don't you always knock him out in the first 30 seconds?" There is an adversary involved and he is part of the equation. Where I think this lies is two fold. We were using a machine, as I have described, that was used, an Alliance, the whole structure, for something that it was not designed to do in the first place. That is my whole point about changing a man's intentions rather than taking what it is you want. My second point is that not only were we trying to change his intentions—I have forgotten my second point now.


  961. It does not really matter because we have eight questions to get through in about nine minutes.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) It has completely gone out of my head, my second point.

  962. I am glad you have forgotten my second point.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) It will come back.

  963. General, the US Department of Defence in their After Action Report to Congress said thus: "NATO's command structure worked well, but parallel US and NATO command-and-control structures complicated operational planning and unity of command". Would you agree with that? Were they saying "Hell, we could have managed on our own. Why did we not fight a war just with the United States? NATO made things more difficult for us"?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) It is difficult in an Alliance. It is a subset of one of my other answers. This is inherent in an Alliance, you have to consider the other parties. It is complicated. You do not even speak the same languages and so on and so forth. Of course it is easier to use a national link but then you are not in an Alliance.

  964. Sure.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) It goes back to this business about it was designed for something it was not being used for. I remember the second point now, it is this point about the context. NATO is a military force, it does not do diplomacy. You only get the military bit when there are other pressures and other factors to be brought to bear.

  965. Can I go back to an earlier question, and perhaps as time is short you could drop us a note. You said to Mr Viggers that the decision to extend the bombing to strategic targets in Serbia was a military planners' decision. It seems to me something as precipitate as that, to move out of Kosovo into Yugoslavia or Bosnia, I would have thought that should be a political decision not a military decision. Could you have a look through your papers.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) I said it was the North Atlantic Council.

  Mr Viggers: Yes, I heard that.


  966. Okay. Fine. It is not entirely clear from which headquarters the air campaign was effectively directed. The impression we have is that it was dictated from SHAPE by SACEUR. Is that so?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) Putting it together, packaging the forces up, actually briefing all the pilots and all of that sort of thing, that was conducted by the headquarters beneath SHAPE. The direction of the effort and the clearance of the specific targets was conducted by SACEUR and SHAPE.

  967. One of the things we have heard is that perhaps General Clark needed a senior air man beside him. Who was his senior air adviser? Where was Lt General Short who was the designated Combined Force Air Component Commander?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) He was down in Italy at the CAOC. There were these daily video television conferences. I do not think he lacked for air advice.

  968. Did the command and control of air operations and the physical dislocation of NATO senior commanders give rise to any problems?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) By which you mean that SHAPE was where SHAPE was.

  969. Yes, and spreading out.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) No, I do not think so. As I say, we had these VTCs and endless telephone links and so on and so forth. There was no shortage of communications. You could argue that there was possibly too much of it.

Mr Hepburn

  970. We gained the impression from General Jackson that there was little dialogue between the Air Component Commander and himself regarding the conduct of the air campaign. Is this right and, if it is right, should there have been greater dialogue?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) It is so. General Jackson's part was not part of that plan. Now, we could argue that we should had a sort of holistic overarching plan but, as I have said before, there was no such context. This was an air option being exercised. That is the procedural reason, if you like.

  971. General Jackson also said that it was not clear to him at the time of his deployment into theatre what he was supposed to be doing. At this point we believe he was directly under SHAPE command. Is he right to be critical on this point?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) I would not say it is critical, it is a statement of fact. He was deployed, as I recall it, under the extraction force plan at its third stage. We had authority to do that, we wanted to get the headquarters out there and so forth, and my memory is he went out under the extraction force plan, whatever that was. Again, we must differentiate between the difficulties of an Alliance needing these things and those of us who were trying to make it work in spite of those difficulties and get over these various mountains. So you seize these opportunities to move people out there when you can. As a result people are deployed into less than perfect text book circumstances. He is completely correct in what he says. What is more, nations for all parts of my debate, as it were, started to deploy people out there under their own auspices as opposed to waiting for this to be done on a consensus basis by the Alliance as a whole. We built forces up there which mercifully were in place when all those people started flooding out. Yes, those are comments. They could be criticisms but that was why it occurred. What would you rather have NATO do, sit on its hands and wait to be told, in which case you would not have had those people there in time at all.

  972. What wider crisis management command and control lessons has NATO learned from the Kosovo experience? Are its structures, practices and procedures responsive enough?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) I think the answer in the broad terms is that we have got to produce a more overarching context in which to employ force. That was the whole. The recognition—I think this is fair to say—in NATO, I am now speaking of NATO not of SHAPE, of this point about building in a capacity to escalate. All of that has to be laid off against the recognition that an Alliance is an Alliance and has certain characteristics which will always make that a relatively difficult thing to achieve.


  973. Lastly, which would you say was the most important part of the bombing campaign, that of Kosovo or of Serbia?
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) In terms of achieving the objective, the latter, the strategic targets in Serbia rather than the tactical targets in Kosovo.

  974. Thank you very much. We will terminate the meeting now. If there is anything, when people have left, you would like to say informally we will be grateful.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) Thank you.

  975. Thank you so much, General. I hope we will chase you to your next appointment, wherever that is.
  (General Sir Rupert Smith) I will try not to make such foolish mistakes.

  Chairman: We all make them. You are on a steep learning curve when it comes to making howlers like that. I am top of the list. Thank you so much.

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