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Cohen: U.S. casualties likely in NATO campaign



Cohen regrets convoy deaths, defends NATO pilot

NATO says it mistakenly bombed convoy

NATO aircraft hit civilian vehicles by mistake

Kosovo or bust, KLA guerrillas ready to fight


Crisis in Kosovo

CNN's Gene Randall reports on U.S. reservists joining NATO campaign (April 15)
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Listen to Inhofe and Cohen give views on Kosovo strategy (April 15)
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Senators divided on war strategy

April 15, 1999
Web posted at: 1:35 p.m. EDT (1735 GMT)

In this story:

McCain: 'Fight to win'

Conflict could last months

NATO acknowledges civilian hit


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Clinton administration on Thursday expressed regret for an accidental NATO air attack on a convoy carrying civilians in Kosovo and warned of the "probability" of U.S. casualties in the war against Yugoslavia, now in its fourth week.

But the use of ground troops is still not under consideration, said Defense Secretary William Cohen and Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, they urged lawmakers to give NATO's air campaign more time to stop the Yugoslav government's fight against ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province.

While committee members said they supported the military campaign's goal, several accused NATO and the Clinton administration of underestimating Yugoslavia's resolve. They urged going all-out to undermine Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and bring a quick end to what they called Serb atrocities.

Cohen reiterated in his testimony that Washington was against the use of ground forces in Kosovo except in a "permissive environment."

McCain: 'Fight to win'

"I know there is moral outage in regard to Mr. Milosevic, and that is certainly justified," said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas). "But what about our response?"

Roberts says NATO's strategy is flawed  

NATO's current policy of "casualty avoidance" does little to help ethnic Albanians who are being raped and driven from their homes, Roberts said. "We will fight evil, but in the doing of it, we will sacrifice the Kosovars."

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) questioned why NATO decided to intensify the air campaign in recent days instead of going for victory from the start.

"You fight war to win, or you don't fight it at all," he said, urging Cohen and Shelton not to rule out the use of ground troops.

"How does it make sense to remove an option, to tell your enemy before you go into a conflict, that you will not exercise whatever options are necessary in order to achieve victory?" McCain said.

But another Republican, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, called the NATO campaign "a war that we should not be in" and said all U.S. forces should be withdrawn.

"The best way we can support our troops," he said, "is to keep them out of Kosovo, out of a protracted war that, in my opinion, we are not going to end up winning."

Conflict could last months

Both Cohen and Shelton, when asked if the campaign could continue for "many, many, many weeks or even months," said yes.

Inhofe says U.S. forces should be withdrawn from the NATO campaign  

"This is not going to be quick or easy or neat," Cohen said.

He said the campaign was making progress, but he also warned in his testimony of the "probability" of U.S. casualties.

Shelton said NATO has been very fortunate in losing only one plane, an F-117A stealth fighter downed March 27. The pilot was rescued. Three U.S. soldiers also were captured near the Macedonian-Yugoslav border and remain in Serb custody.

"I think the prospect for casualties remains very real and high," Shelton said, echoing Cohen's warning that there's a probability of U.S. deaths. "There is no such thing as a risk-free military operation."

NATO acknowledges civilian hit

NATO said in a statement earlier Thursday that one of its bombs seemed to have mistakenly hit a civilian vehicle in Kosovo, but it could not confirm the death toll.

Serb authorities said at least 64 people were killed when convoys of ethnic Albanian civilians were attacked by NATO planes Wednesday on a road near the south Kosovo town of Djakovica.

Cohen expressed regret for the loss of civilian life, confirming that a convoy attack took place in the area during an intensive two-hour air operation. He said NATO planes in the area were under anti-aircraft fire and the pilots had to make split-second decisions. "We go to extraordinary lengths to reduce the risks to innocent civilians," he said.

NATO said the allied pilots involved in the attack thought they were targeting a military convoy.

On a tape recording played for journalists at NATO headquarters in Brussels, one of the unidentified pilots gave his account of the incident, but said nothing about being under attack.

More U.S. warplanes head to Europe
April 14, 1999
Convoys of Kosovo Albanians bombed; 85 dead
April 14, 1999
Week 4 begins; NATO warns attacks could continue for months
April 14, 1999
EU, U.N. leaders to hold summit on Kosovo crisis
April 14, 1999
Serb troops cross into Albania, officials say
April 13, 1999

Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
  • Kosovo

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from

  • F-117s arrive at Aviano to support possible NATO operations
  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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