March 30, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Monday that NATO forces have "made progress" in airstrikes against Yugoslavia and announced that the United States was deploying additional aircraft to the area.
He also categorically said that ground forces would be introduced into Yugoslavia only as peacekeepers after an accord was in place, and that there was no contingency plan to send troops as part of the current military campaign.
"We are making progress against military infrastructure, and we are reducing the Yugoslav ability to sustain operations," Bacon said.
He admitted, though, that bad weather had slowed the operation and that "the impact of choking off supply lines and eliminating ammo facilities and fuel supplies, of course, is a delayed impact."
"It may take some time to see that," he said.
Bacon also announced Monday the deployment of five B1-B Lancer bombers, which should be in the air over Kosovo by the end of the week. Five additional EA-6B Prowlers and 10 tankers will also be sent to join Operation Allied Force soon, he said.
Bacon denied the decision to add firepower to the theater had anything to do with Saturday's crash of an F-117A plane.
"The air defense threat is changing all the time, and therefore, we have to change our methods all the time, and we're doing that," he said. "This is not a static situation."
While the B-1 Lancer does not carry laser-guided, satellite-guided weapons or air-launched cruise missiles, it is capable of delivering what the Air Force calls "sensor-fused weapons" which have submunitions or "bomblets" that home in on the heat source generated by tanks and armored vehicles.
The NATO military campaign began Wednesday and has moved into its second phase. NATO officials say that the alliance's warplanes are now concentrating on attacking Yugoslav tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons, transport vehicles and mobile command centers south of the 44th parallel, which runs through the Yugoslav town of Kragujevac, cutting the country in half.
Bacon said NATO forces also have attacked a number of special police and army barracks in and around Kosovo and are targeting staging areas used by the Yugoslav government forces. He said that the percentage of targets in Kosovo has risen from 20 percent at the beginning of the campaign to as high as 50 percent now.
"We are increasingly going after staging areas, and we assume there will be troops in them," he said.
However, he said, bad weather and the way that Yugoslav troops and special police in Kosovo are dispersed into small groups have kept pilots from targeting the individual tanks and artillery that NATO says are destroying ethnic Albanian villages and fueling the stream of refugees leaving the province.
On Monday, international policy analysts at the influential Brookings Institution think tank said that American ground troops are an inevitable part of efforts to stop the reported bloodshed around Kosovo and the Clinton administration should move quickly.
Richard Haass, the group's director of foreign policy studies, said the United States should "think very hard and very fast" about a form of ground intervention, "not necessarily on behalf of Kosovo's independence, but on behalf of saving lives" against a reported onslaught by Yugoslav troops.
Another Brookings analyst, Ivo Daalder, a former member of the National Security Council, was critical of the Clinton administration's response so far, saying the United States has been swept up in the Kosovo crisis because "we have consistently acted too late. We've done the right thing, but only after doing the right thing was no longer enough."
He predicted that the United States will send in ground troops, but perhaps too late to minimize bloodshed and risk during an intervention.
A third Brookings analyst, Michael O'Hanlon, said that in the meantime, airstrikes can do little against mortars, medium arms and other weapons directed at Kosovar communities.
When asked at his afternoon press briefing about the possibility of deploying ground troops, however, Bacon said that strategy had never been a NATO contingency.
"There is no magic military bullet here," he said, adding that a "determined invasion" of Yugoslavia would require 200,000 NATO troops and would take a month to mount.
"We could not," he said, "even if a decision by some NATO countries was made to deploy ground troops from parts of Europe into Kosovo, it would take a long while. They would not be there tomorrow. It would probably be a matter of weeks or more than a month before these troops were on the ground in Kosovo doing a job."
"You have to remember," said Bacon, "this is a very heavily defended area. There are now 40,000 Yugoslav army troops with over 400 tanks, over 300 armored personnel carriers and over 400 artillery pieces either massed" in and around Kosovo.
"There are heavy concentrations of artillery along the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. There are only 14 roads into Kosovo -- two from Macedonia. These roads are mined. The bridges are mined. There are built in ... tank and artillery positions along lines of communication," Bacon said.
In Brussels, Belgium, Air Commodore David Wilby said Monday that resistance from the Yugoslav air defense system was less overnight than in past nights, but he had no explanation. He said forces had destroyed light fighters, a MiG fighter and a military helicopter on the group.
He also displayed photos showing the destruction of the radar controls at a surface-to-air missile site and at an army headquarters.
Wilby said bombs were dropped with "considerable success" and there were no aircraft losses.
Britain's top military commander, Gen. Sir Charles Guthrie, meanwhile, said British Harriers had struck an ammunition storage facility near Pristina on Sunday night.
Showing gun camera video of laser-guided bombs hitting the target, Guthrie said ammunition and arms stored there were being used by Serb forces against the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
U.S. skeptical of Russian peace bid in Yugoslavia
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