Statement of Col. Robert Killebrew (Ret'd)
Mr. Spence, ladies and gentlemen of the Committee on Armed Services, thank you for inviting me here today. My name is Bob Killebrew, I am a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, and my purpose is to discuss military options in Yugoslavia. I would add that these are my own views, based on thirty years' experience in planning and executing military strategies, and that they obviously do not reflect anyone's opinion but my own.
By way of background, I am a former infantry officer whose main troop experience was in airborne and rapid-deployment forces. I served in Vietnam, commanded in the 82nd Airborne Division and with joint forces in Central America, and had various high-level planning and strategy jobs, as well as teaching military strategy at the Army War College. Since I retired, I write, consult and speak independently; I am not a "corporation" or a full-time member of any corporation or company.
In opening, I would like to associate myself with the philosophy of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Colin Powell. His belief was that American forces should be committed only when there was a clear military objective, in overwhelming force, and with the support of the American people. It seems to me that these conditions are absolutely necessary for military success, and I believe they exist, or can exist, in regard to the situation in Yugoslavia.
A clear political purpose and mission is necessary for military success. So before discussing the two hypothetical cases, let me posit a mission for NATO; to reach a broad and comprehensive Balkans settlement that guarantees peace and security to its inhabitants, including the Kosovars. Essential subtasks would be to begin the restoration of Serbia to the European community of nations and to end the power of Slobodan Milosovec and his thugs in a way that doesn't offer him historic martyrdom in Serbian mythology.
This broad but clear NATO objective -- a comprehensive settlement -- would give a military commander the geographical scope and guidance necessary to (in order) defeat the Yugoslav regular forces and their paramilitaries, secure Kosovo for the return of its population, protect all elements of the Serbian and Kosovar civilian population from attack and reprisal, apprehend persons suspected of war crimes, and work with political and nongovernmental organizations to begin the return to a rule of law and economic recovery.
You have asked me to discuss options for securing only Kosovo, and for securing Serbia proper. Both have similarities. At the outset, both require the mobilization of reserve component personnel from all the Services and of some parts of the civilian sector; e.g., some part of the civil aviation fleets.
In both cases, U.S. forces use fast-moving, firepower-heavy tactics to minimize U.S. casualties and overwhelm enemy forces. U.S. forces prefer to fight at night when practicable, to gain maximum advantage from our night-fighting technology and to protect U.S. forces.
In both cases, U.S. and NATO forces use their overwhelming firepower and shock action to persuade Yugoslav forces to surrender or simply to abandon their units, disarm and go home. This tactic was used successfully in Panama and Iraq, and is likely to be successful here, particularly in view of the objective to return a reformed Serbia to the European community as soon as possible.
Case one: Kosovo
In this case, US and NATO forces deploy as rapidly as possible to staging bases in Albania, Macedonia and elsewhere in the region. Some forces may enter combat directly from the U.S. A number of European-based NATO armored brigades deploy along the Hungarian border to threaten Serbia from the north and to pin down Yugoslav forces there. U.S. armored forces put to sea from Savannah, Georgia, headed for Greek ports.
Yugoslav forces in Kosovo, including the paramilitaries and other irregulars, are attacked by a combination of airmobile forces mostly attacking from the West (Albania), and armored and airmobile forces attacking from Macedonia South to North toward Pristina, the capitol. The attack is made in overwhelming force against, first, Yugoslav regular forces and paramilitaries in fixed sites, and then against mobile units and groupings. It is preceded, as in Case Two as well, with encouragement to the Yugoslavs to surrender and "walk away" from battle unarmed. Simultaneously, air attacks fix and destroy Yugoslav forces throughout Serbia that could reinforce forces in Kosovo. The province is isolated. Fresh troops and equipment flow in directly from the United States and other NATO countries, and from the sea. Within a few weeks, Kosovo is in NATO hands, its border crossings to Yugoslavia held by NATO forces.
In this option, reinforcement of Yugoslav forces by other Yugoslav units will fail, as moving vehicles and troop formations are easily detected and engaged by NATO air forces and long-range fires. The Yugoslav Army is not impressive; even its own officers, as reported in the open press, have misgivings about the quality of their conscripts. Its equipment is old and of lower quality than NATO's, and its doctrine is outdated.
The ability of the Yugoslav government to mount a WWII-style guerilla campaign in Kosovo against NATO is also doubtful. By open accounts, the paramilitaries are mostly city-dwelling thugs and unlikely candidates for hardscrabble guerilla warfare. More importantly, most of the population of Kosovo that would be necessary to support guerilla bands has either been displaced or is liable to be violently anti-Serb, or both.
The airborne and airmobile forces employed in Kosovo would come from, and be commanded by, the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps. The Corps consists of around 85,000 soldiers in four infantry divisions of airborne, air assault, light and mechanized formations, plus corps brigades of engineers, military police, heavy artillery and so forth. Additionally, the corps employs around 230 anti-armor attack helicopters, capable of nighttime fighting, over 230 troop-carrying Blackhawk helicopters and 80 heavy-lift cargo helicopters that would play a vital logistics role. All are night-vision equipped. This superb mobility, although a heavy consumer of aviation fuel, will give U.S. forces the capability to maneuver rapidly across Kosovo's rugged terrain to engage targets of its choosing and in its own time. On the ground, troops are equipped with the Humvee vehicle, many of them kevlar-hardened and equipped with antitank missiles, machineguns and rapid-firing grenade launchers. XVIII Airborne Corps exercises frequently have incorporated scenarios like Kosovo, and the Corps headquarters frequently exercises as a Joint Task Force headquarters and has acted as one in real-world contingencies like Haiti, Panama, and elsewhere.
The southern armored force in Case One exists today and is built around a multiservice nucleus of British, German and French armor and some Italian airmobile units. It may be reinforced by forces from the XVIII Airborne Corps' 3rd Mechanized Division, which deploys from Savannah, Georgia, within three days of alert and uses Greek ports to unload and move north to join the multi-nation forces in the South. Its armored forces, which consist of tanks and mechanized infantry, are task-organized to achieve compatibility with the multinational force it joins. Initially, the force attacks North to destroy or disarm Yugoslav forces in its zone of action, then on approaching Pristina accepts more airmobile support from XVIII Airborne Corps, swings around the city and closes the armored attack route to Yugoslavia. The multination division ultimately constitutes the force that covers the border with Yugoslavia against conventional attack. The southern force continues under command of the British general officer now assigned, though as the remainder of the 3rd Division joins up some readjustment may be necessary.
Logistics is plainly the linchpin in any case. Helicopter operations are fuel-expensive. Initially, fuel and other requirements can be moved overland to staging bases across Albania, up the Greek-Macedonian corridor or airlifted from prepositioned ships in the Adriatic Sea to forward bases. To economize on security, only forward, bare-bones logistics bases are employed in Kosovo.
Case two includes case one, but also features an attack by NATO armored forces south from Hungary to seize Belgrade and occupy Serbia. The attack is staged by a NATO corps of two to four armored divisions whose composition is primarily British, German, French and U.S. The axis is between the Danube and Tiza rivers, and executes three tasks; the destruction or disarming of Yugoslav forces in Serbia, the investment of Belgrade and replacement of the Serb government, and (reinforced by XVIII Airborne Corps) the extension of NATO control throughout Serbia. Like the attack in Kosovo, the attacking forces make maximum use of night fighting, speed and shock power to destroy Yugoslav forces or persuade them to disarm.
The Yugoslav forces, encountering a two-pronged attack overrunning their country, would be incapable of mounting serious resistance. Paramilitary and other forces in Serbia, however, would likely be more successful in mounting a campaign of indigenous resistance in their home country, as they would be more sure of sympathetic civilian support and patriotic feelings. Additionally, an armored attack would necessarily leave exposed lines of communication in a thickly populated area whose people, unless psychological warfare operations are successful, are liable to regard the NATO force as invaders. The more thickly populated urban areas of the north Yugoslav plain and the cities of Novi Sad and other centers should be bypassed, but their populations would have to be addressed eventually, perhaps by follow-on NATO infantry and other troops.
Replacing the Yugoslav government, in particular apprehending Slobodan Milosovec without permitting him a Serbian martyrdom, would be difficult. U.S. operations in Panama taught U.S. commanders the difficulty of making success depend on apprehension of a specific individual. In any case, a NATO-installed Serbian government might lack legitimacy with a population that considers itself victimized by invasion. Like the dog that chased the car and caught it, NATO might find that maintaining an occupation force in Serbia is more than it reckoned for, and it is not clear that such an outcome would contribute to achieving peace and stability in the Balkan region.
The northern NATO armored corps would consist primarily of British Challenger, German Leopard, French AMX-30 and American M1A2 tanks, accompanied by the infantry carriers peculiar to each country; in the U.S.' case, the M2 Bradley. The corps would be task-organized along conventional lines with corps engineers, military police, medical troops and so forth. Logistically, the force would be a hodgepodge of common items -- fuel, ammunition, medical care -- and national-peculiar items. But the logistics system would work, and, though difficult, would be less of a challenge than in Kosovo.
Time required to deploy the force forward from German and French bases would depend on the makeup of the force, but it could move rapidly by road and rail to its jump off locations. Total number of troops employed would be a best-guess, but should be around 80,000 to 90,000. Postwar occupation demands might raise this number.
Advantages and disadvantages:
Case one permits the rapid takedown of Yugoslav forces in Kosovo only. The chances of guerilla warfare are minimal, though scattered violence will occur with diminishing frequency as refugees return and a civil society is rebuilt behind a NATO shield. About 90,000-100,000 troops are ultimately employed, though the combat force is smaller -- 20,000-30,000. Serbia is not occupied, which enhances its recovery and reentry into the West.
Slobodan Milosovec and his henchmen are not apprehended by military force. That remains for political and diplomatic maneuvering to pry him out of Belgrade by persuasion and threat, possibly using Russian influence.
Case two permits the occupation of all of Yugoslavia, including the liberation of Kosovo, return of the refugees and the rebuilding a civil society. The chances of guerilla warfare, however, are considerably higher, and scattered violence against NATO is likely to continue longer. NATO simultaneously rebuilds a civil society in Kosovo and attempts to reform an existing one in Serbia.
Slobodan Milosovec and his accomplices are apprehended and shipped under guard to the Hague, killed in the siege of Belgrade or slip away.
Aftermath: both cases
It seems plain to me that, whatever the eventual military resolution is of the Kosovo crisis, the provision of a safe and secure environment there will be a critical but difficult military mission for months, probably years, to come.
The chaos in Kosovo is only one part of a larger problem in Balkan instability that has been growing since the death of Tito and the dissolution of the Soviet empire. Since most of this century's bloodshed can be traced to Balkan instability in the early 1900's, it seems to me that the United States and NATO have a vital interest in preventing a recurrence in the 21st century. I think we all realize that.
A long-term NATO peacekeeping force in the Balkans, in permanent garrisons, is inevitable. Such a garrison will be constituted along the lines of the old 1950's European "Constabulary" force and will exercise similar powers in Kosovo and may exercise modified powers elsewhere in the region. The U.S. share will likely range around the 20,000 mark for the region, and perhaps more in the early stages of a Kosovar transition from war to peace.
The negative effect on U.S. force structure of maintaining our share of a Balkans garrison must be clearly understood. This is an emerging commitment that, though it must be borne equally by our NATO allies, supports a vital interest of the United States and must be met.
The major weight will fall on the U.S. Army, though Air Force structure will feel a strain as well. Neither force, in my opinion, will be capable of maintaining a Balkans garrison and two-war readiness without major readjustments, particularly, again, in the Army. Besides raw numbers, current Army structure does not have the dismounted infantry and military police available to either constitute a special-purpose force of divisional size, which I do not recommend, or rotate and retrain combat units on a regular basis.
I cannot close without expressing the sense of urgency I feel, as a former soldier and a reader of history, that the present situation in the Balkans is brought to a rapid and just close. It is not true that "all are equally guilty" of mass murder and ethnic cleansing in that unhappy region. Perhaps some are. But nearly a million refugees and hundreds, if not thousands, of graves not only cry for justice, but they threaten the region that was the incubator of the drastic wars of this century. Not only the bones of a Pomeranian Grenadier were lost because of the Balkans, but those of several generations of Europeans and Americans. We must not let that recur in the 2 1st century. This country has the power, and the leadership in the West, to end this sad disaster as speedily, and as bloodlessly, as possible. We must do so soon, and for our own sakes, return that bitter area to stability and peace.
Robert B. Killebrew