Arroyo Center Examines Lessons Learned in Kosovo

The 1999 Kosovo conflict resulted in a clear victory for NATO. Operation Allied Force compelled the end of ethnic cleansing and expulsion of Kosovar Albanians, the acceptance of an international peacekeeping presence in the province, the unconditional return of refugees, and arguably compromised Slobodan Milosevic's hold on power. However, no military operation succeeds without problems, and NATO's effort in Kosovo had its share. A new RAND report based on extensive access to official documents and interviews with many senior officers involved in the operation, Disjointed War: Military Operations in Kosovo, examines these problems to uncover a rich trove of lessons for future operations.

Specifically, the report focuses on a subset of issues that made the operation "disjointed," as the title indicates. Operation Allied Force was a joint operation, but the authors assert that it was not fought that way - at least not to the extent that it could or should have been, especially in the area of joint planning and operations in integrating air and ground capabilities. Joint operations derive much of their effectiveness from the fact that a combination of air forces and ground combat units foreclose an opponent's options. NATO made an early decision for an air-only operation, however, and this one-dimensional approach hampered the operation in several ways. For example, U.S. military doctrine outlines the command structure of joint task forces, including the designation of component commanders for land, maritime, and air forces. A land component commander was never designated for U.S. Joint Task Force Noble Anvil, the force that became the parent unit of the Army's Task Force Hawk, and this absence complicated planning and day-to-day coordination.

The operation revealed that existing joint doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures were not well-developed for the circumstances encountered. When Task Force Hawk deployed, established procedures did not exist for employing attack helicopters without ground forces. Joint doctrine was also not followed in that supporting and supported command relationships were not established.

Based on these problems and others that the authors examined, they made the following recommendations in their report:

  • A Land Component Commander should be routinely designated in joint operations against enemy land forces, whether or not sizable U.S. land forces are expected to be deployed in combat.
  • A joint counterland control center should be established to speed the targeting process, which currently takes too long and has too many components to be effective against fleeting targets.
  • A contingency analysis cell should be established in the Army to assist in identifying and assessing land force options during crises and conflicts. This is especially important in situations where current plans do not exist or are inadequate.
  • The Army needs to develop more expeditionary options below the corps level. Task Force Hawk exemplifies the kind of modularity the Army may need to offer to be most relevant in future operations. Smaller, more responsive and flexible force options must be part of the Army's overall inventory.