American Forces Press Service

DoD Studies Kosovo Lessons Learned

Visit the DoD Kosovo After-Action Review web site.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- NATO solidarity and resources were crucial to the success of Operation Allied Force, DoD officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee Oct. 14.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Henry Shelton testified about changes highlighted in an initial Kosovo after-action report released by DoD.

They told the senators that regardless of problems that cropped up in the action against Yugoslavia, the initiative and innovation of U.S. service members helped ensure success.

The after-action report is a quick scrub of lessons learned from the operation. Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston directed the study. A more intensive review of lessons learned is still underway.

Shelton said after-action reports accentuate the negative. "Because of this focus, it's easy to overlook the most important points of our discussion, and that is that Operation Allied Force was a conclusive NATO and American military success," Shelton said.

Cohen said the United States and NATO achieved all goals set when the operations over Kosovo began in March. "We did in fact stop the killing; we did in fact force [Serb President Slobodan] Milosevic's forces out of Kosovo," Cohen said. "We did in fact have a return of the refugees; we did in fact have a peacekeeping force led by NATO; and we do in fact have a situation now where there is progress being made for the autonomous governments on the part of the Kosovars."

Both Cohen and Shelton marveled that NATO accomplished the mission with no combat fatalities. However, Cohen said, this should not be the standard for operations in the future.

Both men said Operation Allied Force could not have succeeded without NATO. "The notion ... that the United States could have carried out this mission unilaterally is simply not true," Cohen said. NATO allies provided personnel, planes, logistics, bases, overflight permission, host-nation force contributions and political and diplomatic support. Cohen and Shelton specifically applauded contributions from allies and partners near the area of operations: Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania.

Cohen said NATO sticking together throughout the air campaign was central in compelling Milosevic to accept NATO's conditions.

Operation Allied Force had implications for U.S. defense strategy. U.S. strategy calls for the U.S. military to be prepared to fight two, nearly simultaneous major theater wars. "If a theater war had broken out during the Kosovo operation, General Shelton and I are confident we would have been able to meet the challenge," Cohen said.

If there had been two major theater wars, "we would have confronted the challenge of withdrawing our forces from other activities -- including Operation Allied Force," Cohen continued. "But we're also confident that we would have ultimately prevailed."

Some of the solutions for the lessons-learned from this conflict are already in place. NATO adopted the Defense Capabilities Initiative at the meeting in April. The initiatives will enhance allied operations. The five areas targeted are: deployability and mobility, sustainability and logistics, effective engagements, survivability of forces and infrastructure, and command, control and information systems.

Among the moves allies must make is to procure more precision-guided munitions. NATO also needs more strategic lift, and secure communications that are interoperable with U.S. systems.

Cohen said NATO's command structure worked well, but that parallel U.S. and NATO command and control structures complicated operational planning and unity of command.

Other areas the U.S. military and NATO must study include:

Related Site of Interest: Prepared joint statement on the Kosovo After Action Review presented by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, October 14, 1999