Academic journal article Air Power History

Team Sport, Combat Search and Rescue over Serbia, 1999

Academic journal article Air Power History

Team Sport, Combat Search and Rescue over Serbia, 1999

Article excerpt

In the 1990s, United States military forces, as part of the great NATO Alliance, were involved in the Balkans region of Europe, primarily against the forces of Serbia. The last part of that conflict involved direct action against Serbia itself as NATO attempted to staunch their atrocities directed at the southern region of Kosovo. The Serbians had long-considered Kosovo as part of their nation. In 1389 at the Battle of Kosovo Polje, according to Serbian culture, Serbia saved Europe from the Ottomans by "sacrificing itself to halt the Turks in Kosovo." Serbia's gaining of independence in 1878 rekindled its desire for control of Kosovo. As a U.S. Air Force study noted, to Serbian nationalists, "Kosovo was an intrinsic part of Serbia." Under Marshal Josip Broz Tito's rule following World War II, Kosovo enjoyed a degree of autonomy while under Serbia's control. But in the post-Tito 1980s, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo--comprising 90 percent of the population--appeared to threaten Serbian aspirations for control of the province. Playing upon Serbian nationalism and fears, Slobodan Milosevic rose to the presidency in Serbia in part upon his promises of retaining control of "ancestral" Kosovo. In 1989, Milosevic withdrew Kosovar autonomy and permitted the removal of Kosovar Albanians from government jobs including the police. By 1991-92 as the former Yugoslavia disintegrated, Kosovar Albanians formed a shadow government. Still, the province remained relatively peaceful. (1)

In the spring of 1998, however, Kosovo began to unravel. In March, Yugoslavian--essentially, Serbian--security forces initiated attacks against insurgents of the independence-minded Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The violence increased, including the forced evacuation of Kosovar villages and the murders of ethnic Albanians. Nevertheless, by summer the KLA controlled about one-third of Kosovo. Serbia responded with a major offensive. Meanwhile, fearful of what appeared to be the start of another round of ethnic cleansing--as occurred in Bosnia several years earlier--NATO defense ministers considered military options against Serbia. In mid-October 1998, the NATO Council authorized air strikes against Serbia which, for the time being, persuaded Milosevic to comply with a UN-directed cease-fire and the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo. (2)

Although Milosevic did, in fact, withdraw a sizeable number of his security forces from Kosovo, the cease-fire was short-lived due to violations on both sides. By early 1999, Serbian forces returned to Kosovo. Reports of human rights abuses against ethnic Albanians increased, including evidence of a massacre, in January, of Kosovar civilians at Racak, Kosovo. Meanwhile, thousands of Kosovar refugees, driven from their homes and villages in what appeared to be a systematic campaign by the Serbians, began crossing the borders into neighboring Albania and Macedonia. In February and March 1999, last-ditch diplomatic efforts at Rambouillet and Paris, respectively, failed to secure a return to the October 1998 agreement or an end to Serbian operations in Kosovo. On March 20, Serbian forces renewed an offensive against the KLA and continued ridding Kosovo of ethnic Albanians. Three days later, the Secretary General of NATO, Dr. Javier Solana, directed the start of air operations against Serbia. The NATO operational name was ALLIED FORCE (OAF); the U.S. component, NOBLE ANVIL (NA). (3)

Air operations planners calculated on a very short campaign. In fact, U.S./NATO leaders anticipated that only two or three nights of limited air strikes would convince Milosevic to change his rogue-like behavior. As the campaign began, the forces of U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), had only fifty-one fixed targets approved. He forbade any form of ground attack, instead directing USAF Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, the commander of Allied Forces Southern Europe, to conduct an air campaign utilizing the almost 550 U. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.