Pentagon: Apache helicopters, more troops headed to Balkans
Airstrikes cutting off supplies to Yugoslav army, NATO says
April 4, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO is being offered new weapons that will allow it to "get up close and personal" with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's armored units in Kosovo, the Pentagon announced Sunday.
U.S. Apache attack helicopters, sophisticated rocket system artillery and about 2,000 soldiers will be transported from Germany into Albania, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said.
"It gives us greater precision -- all-weather capability, day or night -- to go after the types of weapons that the Yugoslav army, the VJ, is using to not only repress the Kosovar Albanian people but to drive them from their villages and to shell and crush the villages," Bacon said.
"The question you all will have is, 'Isn't this a step toward the deployment of ground troops in Kosovo?'" Bacon said during an afternoon news conference. "The answer is, absolutely not. This is pure and simple an expansion of the air operation."
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, Gen. Wesley Clark, requested the additional weapon systems and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen signed the deployment orders, Bacon said.
But before the new weapons are used, NATO's policy-making council will have to give its approval and President Clinton will have to determine whether there is adequate force protection for the support troops for the helicopter and rocket launchers.
Bacon said he was announcing the weapon increase for two reasons: first, because it was already being discussed in the media and secondly, because it would send a message to Belgrade.
"This will basically help NATO tighten the noose around Milosevic's neck," Bacon said of the weapons being added to help the allies "do a more effective job at eliminating or neutralizing the forces on the ground."
"Milosevic should understand the seriousness of our efforts and our determination to keep this fight going until we achieve our goals," Bacon said.
Flights bringing the helicopters to Albania will "be carefully sequenced with the humanitarian aid" so as not to block the much needed food, medicine and other supplies for the Kosovar refugees, Bacon said.
The Pentagon official also said he was not aware of any allied help or weapons going to the Kosovo Liberation Army.
"Remember, our goal is disarmament. We don't want to fuel the fighting and the arms race in Kosovo; we want to end it," Bacon said.
He also said that bad weather has been "our primary enemy" both in getting good satellite imagery of reported atrocities in Kosovo and in attacking the forces allegedly responsible.
Bacon said that only secondary impact of the alleged atrocities -- the huge flow of refugees across the border -- has been visible.
Earlier, NATO Air Commodore David Wilby said the bad weather that has restricted airstrikes is clearing and that NATO was planning to make the best of the opportunity.
"What I would say, with a big smile on my face, is that the weather is turning, and I can assure you that we are geared up to make the absolute most of the break in the weather," he said.
NATO airstrikes are cutting off vital supplies to the Yugoslav army in Kosovo, allied spokesmen said earlier Sunday, while Yugoslavia reported that a civilian heating plant had been hit in the latest round of strikes, killing a security guard.
As the NATO strikes resumed at targets near Belgrade early Sunday, the Yugoslav army in Kosovo was moving westward to attack remaining guerrilla forces of the separatist KLA, said Wilby, NATO's military spokesman.
NATO strikes pounded military command centers, bridges, fuel supplies and air defense installations around Belgrade, Wilby said, with the aim of breaking supply lines to the troops in other parts of the country.
"Our air effort was concentrated around Belgrade, with attacks being conducted against major army and security forces in the city, including the headquarters of the Yugoslav First Army," Wilby said.
In London, Britain's Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said the bombings are beginning to take a toll on the Yugoslav army and Serbian special police, which NATO accuses of carrying out a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
Milosevic's "forces are increasingly isolated in the field and running short of fuel and ammunition," Henderson said.
NATO attacks on Belgrade resumed Sunday when large explosions began to rock Belgrade about 4:35 a.m. (9:35 p.m. Saturday EST). CNN correspondents saw a fireball and an orange glow which lit up the sky.
Bad weather over the region is beginning to lift, allowing NATO forces to unleash their "full weight" on Yugoslavia, British military officials said in a Sunday news conference.
Sunday's strikes destroyed what Belgrade said was the city's largest heating plant. City officials said the plant was used only to provide heat for more than 1 million people and is now completely out of commission.
The plant manager said a security guard was burned to death in the attack and three other workers were hospitalized.
"All our workers are in deep shock," plant manager Predrag Vasic said. "We cannot believe that there are those who can attack this type of facility."
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Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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