Newsweek Exclusive: Suppressed Air Force Report on Kosovo Bombing Shows Little Damage Done to Milosevic's Forces, Contrary to Early NATO and Pentagon Claims

Serbs Faked Bridges, Artillery, Missile Launcher

May 07, 2000, 01:00 ET from Newsweek

    NEW YORK, May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A suppressed U.S. Air Force report
 obtained by Newsweek shows that the number of targets verifiably destroyed by
 high-altitude bombing in the Kosovo War was a tiny fraction of what top
 military officers publicly claimed. The report shows there were 14 tanks
 destroyed, not 120; 18 armored personnel carriers, not 220; and 20 artillery
 pieces, not 450. And instead of the 744 "confirmed" strikes by NATO pilots
 during the war, the Air Force investigators, who spent weeks combing Kosovo,
 found evidence of just 58 strikes.  The damage report has been buried by top
 military officers and Pentagon officials, who, in interviews with Newsweek
 over the last three weeks, were still glossing over or denying its
     (Photo: )
     Gen. Wesley Clark, the top NATO commander during the war, tried - at least
 at first - to gain an accurate picture of the bombing, Newsweek reports in the
 current issue. At the end of June, Clark dispatched a team to do an
 on-the-ground survey in Kosovo. The 30 experts were known as the Munitions
 Effectiveness Assessment Team, or MEAT.
     The bombing, they discovered, was highly accurate against fixed targets,
 like bunkers and bridges.  "But we were spoofed a lot," said one team member.
 The Serbs protected one bridge from the high-flying NATO bombers by
 constructing, 300 yards upstream, a fake bridge made of polyethylene sheeting
 stretched over the river. NATO "destroyed" the phony bridge many times.
     In addition, artillery pieces were faked out of long black logs stuck on
 old truck wheels. A two-thirds scale SA-9 antiaircraft missile launcher was
 fabricated from the metal-lined paper used to make European milk cartons. "It
 would have looked perfect from three miles up," said a MEAT analyst.  The team
 found dozens of burnt-out cars, buses and trucks - but very few tanks, and no
 indications that hit tanks had been hauled away.
     When Clark heard this news, he ordered the inspectors to walk the terrain,
 report National Security Correspondent John Barry and Assistant Managing
 Editor Evan Thomas in the May 15 issue (on newsstands Monday, May 8). They
 came back with 2,600 photographs and briefed the commanders. "What do you mean
 we didn't hit tanks?" said Gen. Walter Begert, the Air Force deputy commander
 in Europe. Clark said, "This can't be. I don't believe it."
     The Air Force was ordered to prepare a new report and in a month, Brig.
 Gen. John Corley was able to turn around a survey that pleased Clark. It
 asserted that NATO had successfully struck 93 tanks, close to the 120 claimed
 by Gen. Shelton at the end of the war, and 153 armored personnel carriers, not
 far off the 220 touted by Shelton. But Corley's team did not do any actual
 field research. Rather, it looked for any support for pilots' claims. "The
 methodology is rock solid," said Corley, who strongly denied any attempt to
 obfuscate. "Smoke and mirrors," is more like it, according to a senior officer
 at NATO headquarters who examined the data, Newsweek reports.  NATO sources
 also say two of Clark's officers cautioned him not to accept Corley's numbers.
 The U.S. intelligence community, too, was doubtful. "Nobody is very keen to
 talk about this topic," a CIA official told Newsweek.  Over-rating the Kosovo
 bombing could lead to fundamentally flawed strategies in future similar
 conflicts, Newsweek notes.

SOURCE Newsweek