Select Committee on Defence Fourteenth Report




We do not pronounce on whether the war was legitimate or justified. What we do examine are the political objectives of the campaign, what the military strategy was to achieve those objectives, why that strategy was chosen and whether it tallied with those objectives, and what means were used to give it effect. (Paras 3 and 7)

Planning and Preparation

The military have a clear duty to point to, and a responsibility to plan for, the worst, especially if they detect a drift towards military intervention which they suspect is based on unrealistic expectations. Similarly, politicians, notwithstanding their hopes for the best, must be much more ready than they appeared during the early stages of the Kosovo crisis to accept the need for and to sanction such planning. (Para 23)

There was never any question that any military response to the growing crisis in Kosovo would be other than multinational. That fact of life coloured and shaped all that followed. (Para 25)

The failure of the North Atlantic Council to reach an early consensus on its policy on recourse to military means, and the inhibitions within NATO on military contingency planning which might have assisted the process of reaching that consensus, undoubtedly hobbled the Alliance during its early attempts to develop a strategy for addressing the crisis in Kosovo. (Para 26)

Until mid-1998, the little military planning about options for intervention in Kosovo which did take place within NATO was conducted in the context of a policy of containing the crisis within Kosovo, not one of resolving it. (Para 27)

Over the summer of 1998, there was a decisive shift within NATO towards preparing for direct military involvement by NATO in the Kosovo crisis. But the lack of readiness on the part of individual Allies in 1998 to commit themselves to preferred options critically impeded the development of a full range of clear, agreed and detailed plans for a strategy of graduated coercive pressure by NATO against Milosevic. (Para 30)

Once NATO had threatened the use of force to resolve the crisis, so Milosevic's defiance provoked further threats and increasingly it was felt that the Alliance's credibility needed to be defended. In the face of Milosevic's continuing intransigence, the Allies either had to unite and carry through their threat, or have their bluff called. No doubt public differences among the Allies concerning the extent to which they were prepared to engage militarily in Kosovo, particularly without a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the use of force, contributed to Milosevic's assessment that NATO was not serious. But once made, that threat of military action had put NATO's political and military credibility at stake. (Paras 31 and 42)

The Allies did anticipate the likelihood of a KLA counter-offensive in October. In the absence of any agreement from Milosovic to the presence of a properly-equipped peace enforcement force in Kosovo, there was little direct action the Alliance could take to forestall KLA insurgency. (Para 36)

Had Milosevic sought to put NATO's Extraction Force to the test, even only in its limited role as a rescue mission, its limitations and NATO's credibility might have been rudely exposed. The international community did not display sufficient seriousness of purpose or sense of urgency in supporting either the Kosovo Verification Mission or the Extraction Force. One of the lessons of this phase of the twin track military/diplomatic approach to Kosovo is to remind us that peace support operations require a convincing show of both political intent and military force to be credible and effective. An unarmed verification mission and an under-armed extraction force did not meet these criteria. By the end of 1998 there was no international consensus over willing the means (military and diplomatic) which would be needed to enforce the terms of UNSCR 1199 on Milosevic and about maintaining progress towards a durable political solution to the crisis in Kosovo. The attempt to contain Milosevic's oppression through the Kosovo Verification Mission was insufficiently backed up with resources (both military and diplomatic) by the international community. (Paras 40, 41 and 43)

None of our witnesses has seriously offered the view, retrospectively, that an air campaign could directly inhibit the activities of Milosevic's ethnic cleansers. But this coercive motive for its actions seems at the time not to have been fully and frankly acknowledged by the Alliance. As the likelihood of recourse to armed force increased, so at the same time the purpose for which it was to be used became more confused. (Para 45)


The Rambouillet talks may have exposed the disorganisation of the Kosovo Albanians and the bad faith of Milosevic. But they also exposed the absence of a single focus for the international peace making efforts. The military and diplomatic tracks diverged at this crucial point and the failure to fully include NATO in discussions at this stage was a mistake. (Para 51)

The evidence points to Milosevic already having decided to put NATO's credibility to the test before the Rambouillet talks began. However, the draft Status of Forces Agreement did give Milosevic a propaganda weapon. Serbian government representatives were citing the military annex as a major reason for the failure of the Rambouillet talks before the resumption of negotiations on 15 March. But Belgrade rejected the political part of the draft Accords before the Status of Forces Agreement ever became the subject of detailed discussion. The subsequent justifications seem largely to have been used as part of the Serbian propaganda campaign during Operation Allied Force. (Para 54)

Although the peace implementation force was not required to enter Kosovo until June 1999, NATO should have initiated the formal generation of the force earlier. The failure to do so narrowed the range of options available to the Alliance to enforce a settlement. While it would clearly have been a positive result if Milosevic had climbed down in February or March 1999, NATO is perhaps fortunate that the absence of a properly constituted peace implementation force on the ground at that time was not exposed. (Para 55)

Milosevic's determination to pursue his policy of oppression against the Kosovo Albanians at almost any cost was the reef on which the hopes of diplomatic pressure succeeding foundered. Milosevic approached the negotiations at Rambouillet entirely in bad faith—he did not believe NATO would carry out its threats and saw no reason to make any attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. After the failure of the Rambouillet talks, compelling Milosevic's compliance with the agreement made in October 1998 became the default policy of the Alliance. (Paras 44, 50 and 57)

NATO's planning procedures in the period leading up to March 1999 proved too reactive and too cumbersome to move at the pace demanded by events in Kosovo. (Para 58)


The expectation amongst many in NATO and in the UK was that Milosevic, when faced with a credible threat or the use of significant and potentially damaging force against him, such as air strikes, would quickly concede to NATO's demands. The hope that the campaign would last only a few days helped to shape a strategy that proved to be flawed. (Para 60)

Political, humanitarian, legal and public relations considerations had a profound effect on the nature of the strategy adopted by the Alliance. (Para 61)

It is clear that whatever pre-planning was involved, once attacked Milosevic deliberately tried to manipulate the expulsion of Kosovo Albanians into neighbouring countries as part of his counter-coercive strategy to overwhelm the allied forces in place and put pressure on neighbouring governments. It is also evident that the scale and brutality of the expulsions took NATO by surprise—which must be counted a failure of imagination in assessing how effectively an adversary like Milosevic was likely to identify the Alliance's Achilles heel. Insufficient military planning of consequence in 1998/early 1999 was directed towards the provision of humanitarian support. (Paras 63 and 64)

Operation Allied Force demonstrated many areas of imperfection and inadequacy in co-ordinating multinational operations requiring considerable further effort and determination to resolve. (Para 67)

NATO's dependence upon achieving consensus amongst member states for its actions will inevitably require individual nations to accept what are, from their perspective, less than ideal solutions. During the Kosovo crisis these compromises cut both ways—overcoming the reluctance of some Allies to commit themselves to military action while curtailing the willingness of others to use what seemed to them appropriate force. (Para 68)

On 24 March 1999, NATO's political leaders declared their aim in commencing military operations against Serbia to be one of denying the Yugoslav forces the ability to prosecute their campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kosovo Albanians. This was to be achieved, supposedly, by strikes against Yugoslav fielded forces on the ground in Kosovo. By the end of the campaign, and retrospectively, the central purpose of the campaign was said to be that of dissuading Milosevic and his henchmen from directing this brutality and coercing them to negotiate a settlement. This aim required quite different tactics. The confusion of purpose indicated by those preliminary and ex post facto descriptions of its objective dogged the campaign. NATO did not make manifest at the start of Operation Allied Force the necessary clarity of purpose about the aims of its military intervention in Kosovo. (Para 70)

The compromises forced upon the North Atlantic Council by the need to find consensus meant that the politicians and diplomats directing the NATO military planners did not demonstrate, by 24 March 1999, a clear grasp of the nature of the strategy they had committed themselves to pursuing. (Para 71)

The failure to demonstrate a credible capacity to escalate to Milosevic, or convince him of the Alliance's resolve and preparedness for the campaign to endure more than a few days, was due, at least in part, to the lack of an unambiguous determination in all members of the Alliance to see the job through to the end. (Para 72)

It is evident that there was initially little enthusiasm in the US to become engaged on the ground in Kosovo. The US Defense Secretary had said in October 1998 that he would not even commit American ground troops to a peace-keeping force. No doubt the US position would have served to encourage other doubting NATO nations to adopt similar positions. To most if not all nations, it would have been inconceivable to engage in forced entry into Kosovo without the participation of US ground forces. US influence undoubtedly played a major part in shaping decision-making during the military planning process (as well as during the military campaign itself). (Para 78)

Although they represented the only politically acceptable position within the Alliance, the public pronouncements made throughout 1998 and well into 1999 giving the impression that Alliance leaders, including those in the UK, had discounted a forced entry ground option as part of their military strategy, were in military terms a serious error of judgement. They signalled a lack of resolve on NATO's part; they resulted in serious military planning and preparation for such an option effectively being discontinued between August 1998 and April 1999; they hamstrung the Alliance's diplomatic leverage for securing Milosevic's compliance without recourse to military means; and they removed a critical element of uncertainty and danger from Milosevic's assessment of the Alliance's intentions. Moreover, they are likely to have given comfort to Milosevic and strengthened his hand on the domestic front, and so to have been a significant factor in encouraging the Serbian élite to continue to support him in defying NATO. Finally, they enabled Milosevic to shelter much of his military equipment underground, rather than leaving it deployed to meet the possibility of a ground attack. This severely weakened the impact of the air attacks against forces in the field. (Para 80)

Maintaining NATO unity carried a high price. The lack of enthusiasm in most allied governments for justifying to their electorates the case for a forced ground entry caused inhibitions to be placed by politicians on NATO's military staff to even plan for a ground option. Given the failure of NATO to plan and prepare earlier, even if the threat of a ground attack had been made publicly before 24 March 1999, it would have taken time to become credible to Milosevic and his Generals. (Paras 81 and 82)

Conduct of the Air Campaign

It has not proved possible to disentangle exactly the degree to which the supply of aircraft dictated the tempo of the campaign or the requirements of the commanders dictated the rate of supply of aircraft. But commanders did not feel, at all stages of the operation, that they had the right number and mix of aircraft to sustain the appropriate tempo of operations. (Para 85)

The Alliance was at times hamstrung in pursuing an effective campaign against targets of strategic value while it continued to maintain publicly that it was attacking only forces or facilities involved involved either directly or indirectly in ethnic cleansing. Politicians demanded that this was to be presented as a campaign of denial, not a war against Serbia. By doing so, they may have confused Belgrade as well as NATO commanders. (Para 89)

Much of the time the strategies of coercion and the tactics of denial did not sit easily together, sending some confusing signals both to the Serbian leadership and to NATO's own publics, as well as dividing the military efforts of the Alliance in a less than efficient way. The stated objective of the air campaign was 'to avert a humanitarian catastrophe' but in its effects the campaign was, at best, an indirect approach to achieving this objective, and indeed failed, in the short term, to achieve it. (Para 91)

To have launched an all-out air attack against Serbia on 24 March would have destroyed the cohesion of the Alliance. But, the Alliance's graduated approach to the air campaign evidently failed to convince Milosevic that the subsequent escalation of the campaign would happen. (Para 94)

While direct political intervention in targetting decisions was not evident in Operation Allied Force, at least in the UK, political priorities still impinged very directly on decision making at the operational level. That political and legal concern with targetting decisions is a fact of life with which the military are going to have to learn to live in operations of this kind. That does not mean that both the military and civilian side of the process do not need to work hard to minimise the negative effects of such close political scrutiny on the conduct of essentially political operations. (Para 96)

Ambivalence in the North Atlantic Council about authorising the strikes against 'strategic' targets was unhelpful to military planning and contributed to the mixed signals that were sent to Milosevic, the NATO military and the public of the allied nations (and Serbia). That mixed message may have further undermined NATO's capacity to signal its determination in the early stages of the bombing campaign to see through to the end what it had begun. (Para 98)

Air strikes targetted at the Serbian population in general were never at the heart of Alliance strategy, but from the outset of the bombing campaign, both aspects of the Alliance's strategy—coercion and denial—may have suffered from a politically engendered uncertainty over what effect the campaign was supposed to have on whom. (Para 100)

Currently, the non-US members of NATO, including the UK, do not have suppression of enemy air defence capabilities sufficient to allow operations such as those in Kosovo without US support. There is a risk of divergence in the Alliance if the US decides to pursue stealth technology as its main technique for defeating air defence systems, because if as a result it allows its electronic counter measures systems to become obsolescent, the protection they currently afford to other Allies' aircraft will wither. As the expense of stealth technology is probably beyond the reach of many European Allies' pockets or political will, they may have to choose between developing their own systems to protect their more vulnerable aircraft, or relinquishing the strike role to the US Air Force. The alarming deficit in European capabilities for suppressing and destroying even relatively unsophisticated air defences suggests that Europe must either accept that its scope for action independent of the US is very limited indeed, or face up to the requirement of improving its capabilities sufficiently for it to act independently. (Paras 110 and 111)

Despite some success in bottling-up Serbian forces, the strikes against fielded forces in Kosovo unarguably failed in their declared primary objective of averting a humanitarian disaster. The limitations of airpower in pursuit of such humanitarian goals were clearly demonstrated. (Para 117)

The evidence of the relatively poor kill rate against Serbian armour can only lead us to the conclusion that the contribution of the strikes against fielded forces to achieving the Alliance's overall objectives was, at best, marginal. (Para 118)

The relative levels of apparent effectiveness of attacks against aircraft in the air and on the ground may at least give some pause for thought as to the balance between ground attack and air defence capabilities in the UK's inventory of aircraft. These need to be considered carefully if Operation Allied Force is to be seen as representing any kind of template for future air operations in which the UK and NATO are likely to become engaged. In neither the Gulf War nor in Kosovo did the enemy get any significant air forces off the ground. If this is a pattern likely to hold true in the future, the Alliance and its constituent nations may need to reconsider their long-term procurement policies relating to aircraft. (Para 120)

Little detailed analysis was conducted of how Milosevic and his élite would be likely to react as the target of a coercive campaign. There was insufficient understanding within the Alliance of the character and mentality of the dictator. (Para 123)

Some of the strategic targets selected appear difficult to justify. No clear explanation of the decision to bomb the Danube bridges at Novi Sad yet appears to have been given. The attack on the Belgrade TV station on 23 April—though undoubtedly of some military worth—appears to have been only marginal in its effects on Serbian command and control capabilities. It seems impossible to disentangle the relative effects of these attacks in fomenting opposition to the Belgrade régime and in hardening nationalist sentiment, or assess the final balance of advantage to the Alliance between these effects. Any decision to use airpower in pursuit of a coercive strategy must be approached with a combination of caution and determination. The Alliance, underprovided with intelligence, and uncertain about whether it was pursuing a strategy of coercion or denial, contained both approaches within it—but did not reach a consensus about where the right balance between the two lay. (Para 124)

The lessons of the failure to agree on how to enforce an oil embargo should be learned so that they may be applied in future circumstances. (Para 125)

There is a general consensus that all was not well with NATO and UK BDA. Work to improve battle damage assessment capability is overdue. (Para 127)

For the MoD to say that "enough" damage was done is not good enough. The MoD, and the Alliance more generally, cannot simply rely on the response that because Milosevic conceded, the campaign was a success. (Para 128)

NATO needs to have an improved and standardised target approval methodology in future. The level of national scrutiny should be limited to only the most sensitive targets. US sensitivity to releasing certain types of information greatly inhibited combined planning and operations in some areas. NATO must ensure that combat assessment teams are staffed by those who would not have restrictions on their access to information because of its classification. Sufficient analysis needs to have been carried out before hostilities begin to enable targets to be matched with specific mission objectives. (Paras 129 and 237)

The operation was launched on the basis of over-optimistic assumptions about its duration and intensity, and this suggests some failure of planning on the part of the MoD. (Para 133)

Given the centrality of the two future aircraft carriers to the SDR strategy, the evidence that Invincible's carrier air group may not have been optimally constructed or tasked during the air campaign raises some significant questions that will need to be addressed in the acquisition of the UK's future carrier-borne aircraft. (Para 138)

Overall, despite the heroic efforts of UK aircrew and support staff, the UK's contribution to the air campaign, in terms of actual fire power rather than support, was somewhat disappointing. (Para 139)


The most serious shortcoming in UK capabilities shown-up by the air campaign was the lack of precision guided weapons capable of being used in all weathers against static and mobile targets. By the end of the campaign, precision-guided weapons had accounted for only 24% of the weapons used by the RAF. (Para 140)

It is regrettable that delays to the Tornado mid-life update prevented new and improved systems being available for the Kosovo campaign. The MoD and the contractors—BAE Systems—must get this programme back on track, and prevent any further delay. (Para 143)

The need to retrain pilots and reactivate techniques for using unguided bombs suggests a lack of foresight. The MoD's professed faith in the great utility of 'dumb' bombing in the Kosovo campaign suggests that it has been economical with the truth, if not attempting to mislead us. Dumb bombs may be more 'reliable' in the particular sense of the term as used by the MoD, but their future utility in peace support missions undertaken by a perhaps reluctant Alliance will be limited by the operational and political constraints of such endeavours. (Para 145)

Over 50% of the bombs dropped by the RAF were cluster bombs. The Secretary of State's claim that cluster bombs are 'the most effective weapons' for an anti-armour ground attack task does not, we believe, apply to the circumstances of this campaign. At the very least, their reputation as an indiscriminate weapon risks international condemnation, undermining popular support for an action. The UK needs a more discriminatory anti-armour system in order to move to an early end to reliance upon recourse to these weapons in inappropriate circumstances. (Paras 147 and 150)

It is clear that for air-to-ground attack, and even for just an anti-armour capability, a mix of weapons is required which we do not currently possess. (Para 152)

We recommend that, in the light of the experience of the utility of the Tomahawk land-attack missile for use against tactical and mobile targets, the MoD reconsider the decision to stick with the current standard. It is important that the UK should be able to capitalise on the success of cruise missiles in Operation Allied Force, and we look to the Department in its response to this report to set out its strategy for defining its long-range precision-guided land attack capability and the mix of air and sea launched systems it intends to acquire or maintain. (Paras 156 and 157)

That our pilots could not communicate securely and that they could not always communicate with American pilots was a major shortcoming. That NATO should be surprised at the use of this new, more secure but non-interoperable system by the Americans suggests either a woefully poor speed of response or exchange of information within NATO on a vital matter, or a worrying degree of isolationism on the part of the USAF. We expect the government, to set out a precise timetable for remedying this problem. (Para 158)

Work on joint digitisation of the battlespace should be hastened. (Para 160)

Operation Allied Force revealed just how limited is the capability UK forces possess to find mobile forces and, once they have been found, to target and engage them rapidly before they can move again. The momentum behind developing the capability of Phoenix to provide targetting data to strike aircraft must be maintained. (Paras 161 and 164)

The MoD must set out how it is going to ensure that the air tanker fleet is sufficient for likely future needs and that new air tankers become available soon enough to replace the present ageing fleet before they are obsolete. There have been suggestions made of establishing a European air tanker fleet—this is clearly an area where wholesale duplication by each of the Allies of this capability is likely to be inefficient. It will be essential that the UK's own requirement is addressed in the wider context of the European-NATO shortfall in this capability. (Para 166)

Increased strategic lift is of critical importance for the realisation of European aspirations to have a genuine European rapid reaction military crisis management credibility. The credibility of the current order for strategic lift, and of the balance between air and sea lift, needs further examination. (Paras 171 and 172)

Without the continued support of the Greek and Macedonian authorities, sometimes in the face of considerable domestic opposition, KFOR's logistics resupply would have been compromised. Those politicians in these countries who stood by NATO exercised considerable political courage. (Para 173)

The resort to cannibalising front-line aircraft in order to keep up the deployed Sea Harriers' availability is clearly a matter to be taken up by the new joint Task Force Harrier's command. We expect to be kept informed of any continuing incidents of damage to the Sea Harriers' fuselage-mounted missiles. (Paras 153 and 176)

At the outset of the campaign it was intended that all weapons used would be precision guided: in fact the majority of weapons used were not. The MoD's relaxed attitude to the rate of consumption of precision-guided munitions during Operation Allied Force depends far too much on the effects of extraneous factors on the rate of use. There is no doubt that more unguided weapons were used during the campaign than it was intended at the outset. The UK's smart weapon capability needs to be reviewed, and this review needs to be urgent and radical in the light of the lessons of Operation Allied Force. (Paras 178, 179 and 180)

The current balance struck between stockpiles of precision guided munitions and reliance on the ability to replenish those stocks at short notice may carry too high a risk to the ability of the RAF and Royal Navy to support certain types of operations for any length of time. Despite the MoD's confident assertions that stockpile levels had no direct impact on operational decisions, had a significantly higher percentage of sorties led to weapons release or had the weather allowed a greater use of precision guided munitions, then stock levels could have been a constraint affecting the UK's contribution to the operation. (Para 182)


If the European Security and Defence Identity is to develop, the UK and the its European Allies will have to give further thought to the balance between intelligence capabilities rooted in the American link and those which are nationally-owned or shared within Europe. Problems arising from differential access to intelligence within the Alliance undoubtedly hampered the effective execution of the air campaign. (Para 189)

A key role of strategic intelligence is to provide planners and policymakers with analysis of an adversary's future options so they are not caught unprepared and "surprised" by events. This options analysis should be supported by a process of wargaming and scenario evaluation. The UK's and NATO's analysts cannot be expected to predict with certainty the future actions of a regime or an individual. Nonetheless, it is striking that they appeared to have failed to warn policy-makers of the full range of options open to Milosevic and the likelihood of his use of asymmetric responses, thereby leading to surprises for which the Alliance was unprepared. (Paras 195 and 197)

Command, Control and Coordination

The very political sensitivity of an operation such as that in Kosovo demands all the more that the respective jobs of the civilians and the military are clearly delineated. It is not the MoD's job to micro-manage the business of the PJHQ. The scope for better coordination between the Permanent Joint Headquarters and NATO headquarters needs to be spelled out in more detail. (Paras 185 and 199)

Two views of the US within NATO can be taken—that its dominance pushes the Alliance in directions for which there is less than full consensus; or that its willingness to work within NATO acts as an almost self-imposed constraint on US military might in which European views of the world carry more weight than they otherwise would. We favour the latter view. (Para 202)

Greater focus should have been placed upon the development and use of more structured NATO Combined Joint Task Forces, a concept introduced with many fanfares at the Brussels Summit in 1994. (Para 203)

If NATO is to meet the challenges of future crises—particularly in response to asymmetric threats—it must improve its performance in a number of planning aspects. First, it must streamline its own crisis management planning system. Second, the Alliance must ensure that differences between the members are not created by NATO processes themselves: the way information is handled, the bureaucratic pace of dealing with events, or the failure to gather the relevant information at the appropriate time. Third, NATO must address in particular the relationship between political and military planning and streamline the way in which its international (political) staff work with the international military staff in the implementation phase to minimise friction and misunderstanding. Fourth, NATO needs a greater ability to undertake its own coordination of intelligence information. Intelligence-sharing is fundamentally a matter of trust, not just in the people handling it but also in the communications and processes through which it goes. Unless NATO has a better and trusted co-ordination system of its own, so that it can analyse better what it is getting from member nations, its efforts to streamline the political/military relationship in the execution of policy will be badly flawed. (Paras 206 to 210)

There are two areas where both the UK and NATO manifested particular shortcomings—humanitarian co-operation and information operations. These highlight most starkly the failure of NATO to confront effectively the 'asymmetric' tactics used by Milosevic. (Para 211)

Humanitarian Operations

One of the lessons of Kosovo—as it was in Bosnia and has been elsewhere—is that much further thought needs to be given to the consequences of military involvement in humanitarian support operations in terms of doctrine, the logistical implications and the manner in which best to co-ordinate the activities of all the agencies involved. (Para 218)

We doubt whether the lessons of Kosovo suggests that the reduction in engineering capabilities in the Territorial Army was sensible or made significant savings. More broadly, it is clear that the Reserves possess particular skills and experience which are very relevant to humanitarian operations. They include civilian relations, reconstruction, media skills, linguists and psyops specialists. Kosovo serves to remind us of the increasing importance of these skills in the challenges which the Armed Forces face, and the increasing relevance of retaining access to these through a well-funded and well-trained Reserve. (Paras 219 and 220)

One of the key failings in respect of the humanitarian crisis was the disorganisation of the UNHCR itself. (Para 221)

Military planners both at NATO and in the UK should consider ways of forestalling, or ameliorating, the manipulation of humanitarian crises. This should be part of their overall strategic planning for the handling of the situation. At the very least, and on the experience of many other crises around the world, they should anticipate the potential manipulation of human misery as a weapon of asymmetric warfare. (Para 224)

Information Operations

An effective information operations campaign by NATO would have required an integrated political-military effort. At all levels from grand strategy, through doctrine, training and resourcing to intelligence support, information operations were not adequately incorporated into national or Alliance planning. Information operations strategy and doctrine were immature at the time of the Kosovo campaign. While the UK was further ahead than the Alliance in developing these capabilities, neither the UK nor the Alliance as a whole had the knowledge or skills to incorporate them into their planning and operations in a systematic and coordinated manner. It is about time that NATO did develop a doctrine and strategy for information operations, supported with the necessary financial and human resources. The failure to have done so before now is negligent. (Paras 228, 229, 230 and 232)

The MoD must continue its work with other government departments to ensure that defence and other national, as well as Alliance, information technology infrastructures are secure against future attacks that may display a better understanding of their vulnerabilities. (Para 234)

MoD did not have an adequate system for identifying, training and incorporating media operations specialists to meet the needs of a crisis. (Para 240)

More could have been done to give accurate information about the actual number of killings in Kosovo, and to provide some corrective to the more lurid claims. (Para 245)

NATO's early failures in the media war cannot all be ascribed to a failure of imagination in Brussels. As a key player in the media campaign, the MoD must bear some of the blame for the complete lack of preparation. (Para 255)

The key factor in this campaign was the need to understand the Milosevic regime's perceptions and to identify the levers that could be used to influence those perceptions. In this task, neither the MoD nor NATO were effective. (Para 260)

The End of the Campaign

The evidence of the UK's contribution to the air campaign suggests that its air forces here were significantly stretched. And while it is plausible that the UK might have contributed 50,000 troops to a ground attack force, this would have almost exhausted its resources, and such a force could not have been replaced or reinforced. Engaging in Kosovo risked bringing the UK to the very limits of, and quite possibly exceeding, the concurrency criteria set out in the Strategic Defence Review. This serves to remind us that the Territorial Army is more than a public relations exercise—without it, making a significant UK contribution to an invasion force could not have even been contemplated. (Para 308)

In the absence of a decision by early June to assemble a force for a ground invasion, it is doubtful whether NATO could have mounted and concluded such an operation successfully, and returned the refugees to their homes, before the onset of winter. Keeping the air campaign going prior to mounting a forced entry operation could have created considerable logistical and practical difficulties. There would also, of course, have been significant presentational difficulties for NATO which might have severely tested both the cohesion of the Alliance and its credibility. The threat of a ground invasion was real and credible, but came too late. (Paras 270, 271 and 279)

The battle was not won by airpower alone. (Para 278)

Alliance unity was, undoubtedly, a key factor in persuading Milosevic of the hopelessness of his situation, especially when confronted by the reality that Russia was not coming to his aid. But the key role played by Russia in the final stages of the conflict should not be underestimated.(Paras 277 and 280)

Although Alliance unity was only one factor amongst those which eventually enabled NATO to prevail, it was a necessary condition for the others to have effect. Unity was, in the end, the Alliance's greatest strength. At the same time it was NATO's weakest point. The perceived need to defend NATO's credibility was, in itself, a major factor in driving the process whereby the Alliance found itself painted into a corner by March 1999 from which its only way out was to pursue a military campaign against Serbia. Yet the maintenance of its unity was the factor which most significantly restricted the military options open to the Alliance to pursue an efficient and successful coercive strategy against Milosevic. (Para 281)

NATO forces were not ready from March 1999 to deploy quickly into Kosovo in a potential peacekeeping operation. On the contrary, NATO was pressed to assemble the forces required for entry into Kosovo in June 1999, and should have had a much more capable and better prepared peace implementation force in place much earlier. (Para 283)


Parliament needs to be informed of the extent to which the costs of the Kosovo conflict and its post-conflict commitment are being refunded to the MoD by other government departments and by the Treasury, or whether substantial costs are ultimately being borne by the defence budget. We will be continuing our annual monitoring of the MoD's Estimates and annual reporting documents to ensure that the Defence budget is fully reimbursed for the costs of operations in Kosovo, as well as other critical operations. We will also be examining how the proposed joint MoD/Foreign Office/DfID 'Conflict Prevention' budget, announced in the 2000 Spending review,[684] will allow a proper planning and provision for the resources needed to defuse or (if need be) to tackle future crises.(Paras 289 and 290)

684  Spending Review 2000, Cm 4807, pp141-142 Back

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