Operation Joint Guardian

Troop strength

June 1999

On June 11, 1999, after Serb forces started withdrawing from Kosovo, NATO put the air strikes on hold. Yugoslavia was given eleven days to pull out. All Yugoslav aircraft and air defense weapons were to be withdrawn at least 15 miles outside Kosovo's borders. Once the Serbs would have have pulled out, the Pentagon estimated it would take at least 24 hours before the first allied troops would enter Kosovo. KFOR would be made up of 50,000 allied troops, initial plans said.

British elite paratroopers were awaiting orders along the border with Macedonia. They would be followed by French and other NATO troops. US Marines and Army soldiers began arriving in northern Macedonia, where thousands of allied forces stood ready to begin their Kosovo mission. Allied troops were expected to move in in a few days.

NATO's Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps — with about 17,000 troops under the command of British Lt Gen Michael Jackson — was expected to move from its headquarters in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, to Pristina, the Kosovo capital. Jackson was appointed as the overall NATO commander in charge. The US had 2,000 marines on their way from Greece to Kosovo. They had 13 light armored vehicles, 15 armored amphibious vehicles, 27 Humvee vehicles armed with TOW anti-tank missiles and artillery. About 1,700 heavily armed US Army soldiers began moving by road from Albania toward the Macedonian border. To their disposal were also eight AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, 14 battle tanks, 14 Bradley armored vehicles, 105mm howitzers, and 32-ton Paladin armored vehicles with 155mm howitzers. Another 200 US soldiers were flown in from Germany. The Russians started training about 700 troops in the Ural Mountains for deployment in Kosovo.

See also the article Operation Allied Force: allied unity.

Role of Russia

A buffer zone will protect Kosovo as NATO powers and Russia establish peacekeeping operations there and begin preparations for the return of refugees.

Map KFOR zones
KFOR sectors in Kosovo;
the role of Russia was unclear at first.

A Russian convoy of trucks and armed vehicles stationed in Bosnia — with hastily drawn KFOR markings on them — headed toward Kosovo, intensifying the debate about Moscow's role in the peacekeeping force. The Russian move caught NATO by surprise, causing confusion and delays.

Russia demanded a zone of its own. NATO rejected this demand, fearing creation of a zone in Kosovo where Serbs might still be able to exercise authority. Russia threatened that if they would not get their own zone, they would work out an agreement directly with the Serbs in Belgrade.

After three days of difficult negotiations, Russia agreed to place about 3,600 of its troops under NATO command as peacekeepers in Kosovo. This also opened the door to an expanded Russian representation in NATO's command structure. It was agreed that Russian representatives would be present at NATO's main headquarters in Brussels, at the headquarters Southern Europe in Napels, and at the headquarters for Kosovo.

Under the deal, the Russians initially had some 3,600 troops and 16 liaison officers. The troops operated in four different zones: the northern part of a sector controlled by US forces, the northwestern part of a sector under German control, a small piece of a French-controlled sector in the north, and a small piece of the British-controlled sector.

Of the troops, 750 were in the vicinity of the Pristina airport. A Russian airfield commander was designated, with NATO in control of air operations. It was agreed the Russians would provide airfield maintenance and other support.

Comparison With SFOR

The peacekeepers must secure Kosovo and prepare the way for ethnic Albanian refugees to return home from teeming border camps. More than 850,000 ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes and fled to Albania and Macedonia. An additional 500,000 also were displaced but are believed to remain inside Kosovo.

The difference with the situation in Bosnia, where the Stabilization Force restored peace and helped rebuilding economy is that the United Nations will play a significant role. This was demanded by Yugoslavia and Russia. Under the 1995 Dayton agreement that ended the Bosnian war, the United Nations had no official role.

The UN Security Council will be responsible for the implementation of civil aspects. The High Commissioner for Refugees will be responsible for the refugees and the European Union and World Bank will have key roles in reconstruction. The military and civilian operations in Kosovo are expected to be deployed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, enable it to act independently of Milosevic's government. A resolution on the matter was expected to be adopted.

US president Clinton warned Serbs that the United States would not help them rebuild from bombing "as long as your nation is ruled by an indicted war criminal."

Source: Reuters, Associated Press, Washington Post.